Opera House, February 25
One of the stupider things Noel Gallagher has said – the man can be brilliantly funny and is smarter than little brother Liam, but he isn’t short of the stupids at times either – was something along the lines that no one ever bought a record because of a bass part.
Setting aside the absurdity of the claim for records (let’s start with something as basic as Under Pressure), Mr G would do well to put himself somewhere near the centre of the room when Los Angeles’ Warpaint are playing.
The centre of the room, the centre of the sound, and in effect the centre of this band, is bassplayer Jenny Lee Lindberg whose four-string guitar runs, skips, pushes, dances, curves, holds, laughs, argues, wins and always, always, leads.
Along with the inventive, grounded-but-shifting, almost melodic drumming of Stella Mozgawa (the birthday girl local who had the crowd serenading her late in the evening), Lindberg is the reason Warpaint are more than drone and more than atmosphere.
With this rhythm section, there’s a funkiness that isn’t locked into a groove in the traditional manner, and a power that isn’t obvious forcefulness but rather in-the-moment presence.
So everything feels fluid and moving but also solid enough to not just provide the canvas but the main picture. There are moments when you could almost be convinced that all you need are the bass and drums.
It is on top of this where guitarists/singers Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman can be colourists rather than principal artists.
Their guitar lines are emissaries sent from home base and searching for openings: sometimes snaking; sometimes pushier but never taking control.
Their vocals are blurrier, not just with lyrics sometimes indistinct but also tonally, as melody is not their raison d’etre. Vocal lines emerge from fogginess, push along for a time in some kind of stark relief and then return to that fog.
Which is why when the show faltered, as it did for a two or three song segment, it was easy to see why: the rhythm fell back into something approaching standard forms and the guitar/vocals were asked to describe more vividly than they were strictly able.
More so than on record though, Warpaint owned the space, space which Linberg and Mozgawa had claimed and colonised.
If the Slits and Primary-period Cure had a child it would sound like this. And it would be a surprisingly animated, colourful child.