Live Review: Warpaint/Twin Shadow/The Neat

O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 21st February

No need for frills when the drama and tension is as diverse and awe-inspiring as this…

There’s too much angst-ridden aggression etched on the faces of [a]The Neat[/a] for them to resemble bookworms, but the Hull boys were clearly swotting at the front of the class when [a]Mark E Smith[/a] delivered his lecture on the fundamental ‘three Rs’ of post-punk: repetition, repetition and repetition. Never tedium, mind – it’s all taut-as-wire riffs and drums that bounce off your skull like a steel toe-cap.

Tonight’s history lesson doesn’t end with them, though, for up next is [a]Twin Shadow[/a]. Despite slouching onto the stage with a quiff that’s been so stiffly starched it wouldn’t look out of place in [i]The Jetsons[/i], [b]George Lewis Jr[/b] is clearly a figure who spent many an afternoon poring over the dust-covered shelves of his local record emporium. Even in a booze-sodden room in west London, [b]‘Castles In The Snow’[/b] remains a perfect piece of nostalgic dream-pop, and no matter how sticky the floor with the residue of nefarious substances, Lewis’ sigh of “you’re my favourite daydream” remains unblemished.

There are no twinkling reassurances present in [a]Warpaint[/a]’s set; this evening they seem even more wintry and desolate than they do on record. Never renowned for being the most garrulous bunch, they keep between-song patter to a minimum, aside from a few muttered introductions. The likes of [b]‘Set Your Arms Down’[/b] and [b]‘Undertow’[/b], meanwhile, feel almost unbearably brittle, like silky strands of gossamer that could snap under the slightest pressure.

There are lighter moments which peer from the gloom – in particular, [b]Stella Mozgawa[/b]’s brief dance behind her drum kit is less LA hipster and more dad-at-a-disco jigging. But it’s not frivolity that made us fall in love with them; it’s the way they grow stronger, rather than sag under their own great dramatic tension. And as [b]Emily Kokal[/b] gives her “[i]word of honour to be faithful[/i]” on the breathy, [a]Cat Power[/a]-like [b]‘Billie Holiday’[/b], it’s not hard to remember why we took our own vows of devotion to [a]Warpaint[/a] not so long ago.

Ben Hewitt