American indie-rockers kick-off a week of great live music with a cultured swagger.
Liverpool Music Week’s opening night reminds us all of the reason Liverpool has been dubbed the city of diversity and open-mindedness. Thriving with an eccentricity, the night’s venue holds one of the city’s centres of bohemian culture: Quiggins. An ideal scene to kick off Europe’s largest indoor festival; in the face of such diversity, everyone was included; everyone was accepted.
Formed at Liverpool’s Institute of Performing Arts, supports All We Are are refreshingly laid back, casual in their image and, though unimposing, they hold the stage with calm confidence. To those who dismiss AWA’s recent debut album as being too lethargic: go and see them live. It might just be your wake up call. Guro Gikling’s serene, floaty vocals that fans have come to love are maintained; live her voice takes on a greater range. Adding a whole new dimension to their new music, she flips from tones like that of singer/songwriter Lucy Rose, and London Grammar’s Hannah Reid, to the feistier Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice, and, fleetingly, the deeper darker tones of Siouxsie Siox.
With the combination of a stronger drum beat and guitarist Santo’s rockier riffs, in true Liverpool style of non-conformity, AWA take on an alternative route, and their music falls into the receiving arms of the audience. The instantly recognisable tones of ‘Utmost Good’ and ‘Feel Safe’ are marked by approving whistling of fans, and the foot tapping, head-nodding reaction of many. “Thank you for getting here early to see us”, drummer O’Flynn later shouts into the crowd; the appreciation was undoubtedly mutual. The self-suggested description, ‘Bee Gees on diazepam’ still provides a fitting account of their style; their live performance was more energetic than it was downbeat.
Next up, after a recently released album, LA quartet Warpaint draw the crowd in; egoless, they instantly create an intimate rehearsal-like performance. Wayman pulls her hoodie over her palms and holds the microphone wire in one hand, whilst Lindberg and Kokal have adopted a moody stance. They stand, hair pushed over their faces with their heads down and eyes closed while strumming and picking out harmonies, a composure that’s somewhat eery combined with the lighting and mist. As ‘Intro’ drifts in, followed by a flawless transition to ‘Keep It Healthy’, the crowd seem unsure of how to react; the uneven tempo of Mozgawa’s drum makes the latter a tricky tune to dance to, and their fans are left watching in intrigue.
This quickly changes when the discernible harmonies of ‘Heads Up’ begin, and the previously shy participants begin to move. From this moment on, the four musicians have the crowd like putty in their hands. For ‘Undertow’, a tangible sense of anticipation is felt as Wayman steps back, and to shouts of “Jenny!” in the crowd, Lindberg temporarily takes up the main vocals. Even the dejected lyrics “I won’t give up on you, though I think you want me to” from ‘The Stall’ have the crowd dancing in a kind of hypnotic trance. A woman nearby jokily imitates the sullen stance of Warpaint’s performance by pushing her hair over her face and closing her eyes. There’s very much an odd paradox of carefreeness despite the somberness of the music, both in the crowd and on-stage. It becomes apparent the audience’s reactions are entirely led by the quartet who hold a sturdy lead over the night.
Live, the vocals for ‘Beetles’ take on a less filtered and synthetised approach than the band’s 2011-released single, whilst a vaguely Foals-esque guitar melody runs through ‘Elephants’. For both songs, Kokal and Wayman are really able to come into their own on the strings, whilst Mozgawa varies fluidly from tattering percussion to steady beats.
Ending the main set with a sturdy ‘Love is to Die’, ‘New Song’ and ‘Disco//Very’, the band brings their performance to a robust close. Grinning at Mozgawa across the stage, Wayman walks over to the drum set as “Disco//Very” is coming to an end grabs a set of drum sticks and ferociously beats out a rhythm opposite the drummer. Drawing out the tune, the musicians seem as reluctant to exit the stage as the crowd are for them to leave. Sure enough, they shortly return after not being able to keep off the stage. “We came back,” Wayman says with a wry smile, before they play their encore. Warpaint are cool, composed and creatively vibrant, which is everything you could want from a festival-opening performance.
Article First Posted on the Head First 4 Music site: http://www.headfirst4music.com/single-post/2017/01/14/Feature-An-Evening-With-Elephant-Stone