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Warpaint’s sometimes meandering ‘Heads Up’ sounds taut and measured in Manchester – live review

The Los Angeles band show that frequent touring doesn't necessarily mean their live show's stagnated.

By rights, this is a gig that shouldn’t be happening.

After all, it’s barely eighteen months since Warpaint last played at Manchester’s Albert Hall, and back then, they were swearing blind that this was the last chance to catch them in the UK for a good long while. They’d reached the natural – if protracted – conclusion of the global tour in support of ‘Warpaint’, and they’d settled on a new release model: rather than make full-length albums, they were hell-bent on putting out singles as and when they felt like it. Creatively speaking, that was a bold stance.

A year, though, is an awfully long time in indie rock and eighteen months even more so. Warpaint are back at the Hall, sure, but more important is the fact that they clearly possess scant regard for expectation. They made their latest LP – September’s ‘Heads Up’ – because they could, not because they needed to.

It’s that point that’s at the very crux of tonight’s triumph; this is a band gloriously relaxed, fizzing with a confidence that the atmospheric likes of ‘Whiteout’ and ‘The Stall’ give off, and well aware of the incendiary nature of the band’s choice vintage cuts. A mass singalong greets ‘Undertow’. A mosh pit breaks out for ‘Love Is to Die’. The band seem genuinely moved by it. Indifference isn’t an option at a Warpaint show.

The out-and-out dance one-two of ‘New Song’ and ‘Disco//Very’ closes the set in energetic fashion; some reviews of ‘Heads Up’ suggested that certain tracks meandered but the new material aired here – ‘So Good’ being a highlight – feels taut and measured.

Tonight’s the sixth anniversary of their first Manchester gig. They played a mile down the road at the Deaf Institute in October 24th, 2010, the night before the release of their debut LP. They were captivating then, and that’s something that’s never fallen away since.

They’re one of those bands that, ultimately, represent so much more than the sum of their parts. Frequent touring shouldn’t automatically translate to apathy on the buyer’s end, but it doesn’t matter anyway; Warpaint are capable of cultivating atmosphere amidst the least lively of circumstances.

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