Warpaint live in KL. Photo by Ricky Sow.

It wasn’t a hot and stormy night. Nobody jumped up and down. Nobody even broke a sweat.

Yet Warpaint’s live concert (at Bentley Music Auditorium on 12 February) was weirdly thrilling. Marking the US band’s first show in KL, they gave a sultry performance that was both raw and technically brilliant.

About 500 fans gathered and waited patiently in Bentley Music Auditorium, with queues starting around two hours before the female four-piece actually struck their first chord.

When Warpaint finally opened, it was with an instrumental track (the aptly titled “Intro”) – a sign that they didn’t intend to pander to any fairweather fans. Luckily, the set list turned out to be the right balance of their older material, tracks from their new album and unreleased songs.

When the crowd shouted out their favourite songs in anticipation, the girls seemed a little put off: “Don’t drop hints!” they clucked. When the hits finally dropped, they were sneaky about it. A loose cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, which seemed strangely unrehearsed at first, later segued into their breakout song, “Undertow”.

One of the most memorable moments of the night came with Emily Kokal, lead vocalist, asked everyone to sit down on the floor for a quiet song. “It’s carpeted, it’s totally chill”, she re-assured her bandmates. The crowd accommodated her request and was treated to a hair-tingling acoustic rendition of “Bille Holiday”, sung with pitch perfect harmonies.

Throughout the set, Warpaint showed their growing maturity and confidence as a band. The reverb and echo on their vocals created the familiar layers of ethereal sound known from their albums, but there was added raw energy (at times verging on banshee shrieks) to keep things interesting. Electronic sampling was used effortlessly.

In short, they pushed all the right buttons. Bentley Music Auditorium also provided stellar acoustics. While not frequently used for touring international bands (perhaps partly because there’s no bar inside), it was a good choice of venue for a cult favourite like Warpaint. The crowd may have been thirsty, but the band got their full attention.

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