BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17

BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Rob Hadley

Warpaint almost split up before recording last year’s album, Heads Up. After 18 months on the road the LA group’s four members took some time to pursue solo endeavors, with bassist Jenny Lee Linberg releasing a solo album and Stella Mozgawa drumming for a number of artists, including Kurt Vile. They almost didn’t reunite.

Happily they did, and the resulting album transmits a rediscovered joy of playing music together. It feels freer and lighter than Warpaint’s previous releases, while still being meticulously crafted and beautifully produced. It stands up well to repeat listens.

Tonight’s gig at the O2 Institute is the first of a five-date UK tour, in the middle of a month-long European tour. Warpaint sidle onto the stage for an oddly low-key beginning to the show, with a ponderous instrumental introduction leading into the hypnotic ‘Keep it Healthy’, taken from their eponymous second album. It’s a gorgeous song showcasing the talents of Mozgawa, whose drumming is a focal point throughout the gig.

BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review‘Heads Up’, the title track from their latest album, ups the pace; dancey guitar lines flutter in and out across a driving bass line. ‘Undertow’ (arguably still Warpaint’s best song, keeps up the momentum. The enchanting, eerie vocals are mantra-like, building to a satisfying guitar breakdown payoff.

Tonight’s set draws evenly from across the band’s three albums. By the middle of the gig this serves to highlight the fact that, throughout their career, Warpaint have written a lot of mid-tempo tracks. ‘No Way Out’, taken from a 2015 EP, meanders through seven quite dull minutes. ‘The Stall’, from the new album, is similarly uninspiring and ‘Stars’, a post-rock opus, may be carefully considered and executed, but ultimately fails to hold the attention.

Part of the problem is that the subtleties of Warpaint’s recorded work, particularly in the gorgeously produced new album, are lost in the muddy sound of the live arena. An issue too is the aloof, introspective nature of the band members; they have a lot of chemistry, but at times I feel like an outsider awkwardly gate crashing into their rehearsal room.BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

Things pick up again with ‘Whiteout’, the opener from Heads Up. ‘Whiteout’ sounds more modern than much of Warpaint’s Cure-rock, with a funky, almost r‘n’b vibe benefiting from an impassioned vocal performance from Emily Kokal and insistent, woozy guitar triplets.

‘So Good’ and ‘New Song’ are also highlights of tonight’s gig, showcasing the pop sensibility of Warpaint’s most recent material. It’s the sound of a band that’s confident, adept and at ease with itself. Perhaps some time apart has done them good.

For more on Warpaint, visit www.warpaintwarpaint.com

For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from Rough Trade, visit www.roughtrade.com

For more from Crosstown Concerts, visit www.crosstownconcerts.com

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham Review




 Words by Damien Russell  Pics by Rachel Mason

Hot on the heels of her album release, Laura Marling embarked on a 32 date international tour  – playing to a sold out show at the O2 Institute on 14th of March.

It’s a gig I’ve been looking forward to. I like the album, Semper Femina (although it’s not perfect), but my friend is a long-term fan of Laura Marling and is mad keen for the show. I’ve not seen Marling before but hear good things, so I ignore the fact it’s been a long and stressful day and commute up from Basingstoke to be there just as the support band are starting.

Said support are a four piece country/soft rock group who are melodic but slow. The singer’s quite quiet and in-between songs I have no idea what he’s saying, so I must confess I never got their name. They unfortunately fail to get my enthusiasm, and I see pockets of people chatting who seem equally disengaged.

The band are clearly competent but just a bit too slow and a bit too laid back. Their last song, before clearing the stage for Laura Marling, is an up-tempo number and exactly what they should have been doing the whole time. It’s a shame as you can see they recognise that song is the best received, but just don’t seem to have made the connection.

BREVIEW: Ethan Jones – supporting Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewI notice there doesn’t seem to be much activity preparing the stage. It seems odd but I don’t have to wait long to find out why; out with Laura Marling come the bass player and drummer from the support group, as part of her backing band. A nice touch and something that must make the tour more efficient. Additionally Marling has two backing singers and an electric guitarist.

The first song of Laura Marling’s set is ‘Soothing’, the opening track from the album. In fact the first five tracks tonight are the first five off Semper Femina, played in tracklist order. ‘Soothing’ is my favourite song off Semper Femina and while I feel it’s only right that it has such a prominent place in tonight’s set, I am disappointed that the double bass I’m certain must have been used on the record to get that fantastic deep sound is nowhere to be seen. The double bass does feature on later songs in Laura Marling’s set tonight, but not on the one I feel it really needed (to read Damien Russell’s Birmingham Review of Semper Femina, click here).

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewThe five track Semper Femina section is followed by a tri-song treat of Laura Marling on her own, performing tracks #7 and #8 (‘Next Time’ and ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’) again from her latest LP, alongside ‘What He Wrote’ from the 2010 album I Speak Because I Can. The final new track, ‘Nouel’, finishes off this section of the set with the full band again. I like the split and the way all of the new tracks are performed together, it has a touch of the dramatic about it and is something I rarely see done.

The tracks themselves are lovingly reproduced from the album to the stage, and although I pick up a couple of small arrangement changes for the live setting each track is easily connected to the studio version. But when Laura Marling takes the stage alone, it’s a real highlight of the set; her stripped down version of ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ is, in my opinion, much better than the album version. Her solo performance of ‘What He Wrote’ is the best song in the set by far.

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewFollowing the new material, Laura Marling and her band run through some of her best known other songs – including ‘Daisy’, ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘Darkness Descends’ – before ending the set with ‘Rambling Man’ and her trademark announcement that she doesn’t do encores.

Musically, the group were solid and the songs are obviously good, but there’s something missing in the band’s performance tonight that makes me wonder if they’re as well rehearsed as they could be. There have been a few minor slip-ups tonight; nothing major, but coming from either inexperience in the musicians (hard to believe) or a lack of preparation time.

Laura Marling herself is excellent musically but spends the gig gazing into the middle distance, leaving me feeling a she’s not entirely with us tonight. We get a couple of “how are you?” but little in the way of other banter or engagement.BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham Review

On the whole, it was a good night but it was far from a great one; even the reactions from the other crowd members seemed muted. I think next time I see Laura Marling (and yes, I think there will be a next time) I’ll make sure it’s at one of her solo shows. Otherwise I’ll stick to the albums.

For more on Laura Marling, visit www.lauramarling.com

For more from O2 Institute, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com



BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17



Words by Ed King

On Wednesday 22nd March, Warpaint come to the O2 Institute – with support from a band on the punkier side of the UK Rough Trade roster, Shame.

Doors open at 7pm with tickets priced at £21 (+booking fee), as presented by Crosstown Concerts. Minimum age for entry is 14 with under 16s requiring adult accompaniment. For direct gig info, including full venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Warpaint come to the O2 Institute in Birmingham for the first date in their six date UK & Ireland tour, including a set at the BBC 6 Music Festival in Glasgow. On the road promoting their third studio album, Heads Up, Warpaint land back on British shores after six dates across mainland Europe.

And Heads Up is what’s it’s all about right now for Warpaint, with only a handful of songs from their latest LP making it onto the previous tour’s set list. As Theresa Wayman told Clash Magazine in late 2016, “right now we only have five new songs in the set, which doesn’t feel like enough”.

But Heads Up is an arguable transition for Warpaint, with a new approach to writing and recording bringing a broader spectrum of styles and tempo; the opiate haze from much of Warpaint’s back catalogue now has the odd disco biscuit bounce and white line shuffle to keep it on its toes. There’s even a Soulwax remix.

The crowds seem to be toying with a chance of pace too, as Warpaint’s last gig in Manchester received a respectable mosh pit response. “We played ‘Love Is To Die’, ‘New Song’ and ‘Disco/Very’ all in a row” continues Wayman in her interview with Clash, “and people were moshing pretty hard. But we did the same set in Edinburgh the night before and it was completely the opposite, so I don’t know what the secret is really.”

But with Jake Bercovici back at the helm, who produced Warpaint’s debut Exquisite Corpse EP, it’s not a total clean slate. And lots of Heads Up harks back to the shoegaze dream rock of releases gone by. Not that any of this matters until you see it on stage, and with Birmingham getting the first UK look at an amended set list it would be rude not to form a new opinion.

In the meantime, check out a couple of strands from the new Warpaint spectrum with the following tracks featured back to back on their Heads Up LP.

 ‘New Song’ (YouTube video) – Warpaint


‘The Stall’ (recorded by NPR Music at the 9:30 Club, Washington D.C.) – Warpaint

Warpaint perform at the O2 Institute on Wednesday 22nd March, with support from Shame – as presented Crosstown Concerts. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Warpaint, visit www.warpaintwarpaint.com

For more on Shame, visit www.facebook.com/shamebanduk

For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham


For more from Rough Trade, visit www.roughtrade.com

For more from Crosstown Concerts, visit www.crosstownconcerts.com

THE GALLERY: The Pigeon Detectives @ O2 Institute 08.03.17






Words & pics by Michelle Martin

It’s cold. It must be dropping near to 6 degrees and there’s a group sitting outside the O2 Institute at 5.30pm, wearing The Pigeon Detectives t-shirts and playing The Name Game on their mobiles. Too cold for my liking, I dive into The Kerryman next door and stumble upon more Pigeon fans with the same idea as myself.

Making it back to the O2 Institute for the first support band, Autopilot, the room slowly fills almost to capacity. Initial screams die down after a few minutes of clumsy shuffling about on stage trying to fix the sound; one man impatiently shouts from the back after an awkward start to the evening.

Once Autopilot start playing, the first half of their short set is forgettable and lacklustre but picks up with more lively music for the final two songs. Lead singer, Jack Schofield, keeps the enthusiasm alive though with his energetic stage presence, bouncing around without a care in the world.

To my right, The Pigeon Detective’s Matt Bowman is watching Autopilot alongside members of Franklin – tonight’s second support act. To my left, fans are busy seeking his attention, whilst other members of The Pigeon Detectives are dotted around the sound desk sipping on beers.

Franklin come onstage with a straight in your face attitude, lighting up the room with a colourful and passionate thirty minute set (my first dance of the evening commences three tracks in). Alex Frankl and Barney Trent absolutely go for it, bringing the sets slow departure with ‘Care for You’.

When The Pigeon Detectives land on stage, they open with ‘Enemy Lines’ from their latest album Broken Glances. They follow this up with the popular ‘Emergency’, and so begins an onslaught of bottles, cups and alcohol flying six feet in the air. Up next is ‘What Can I Say’ but thankfully there’s a photo pit I can dive into and out of the way. Up goes another bottle, and another (I think Matt Bowman has an entire case hiding behind Jimmi Naylor’s drum kit).

The Pigeon Detectives continue with a slew of hits from Broken Glances, alongside selected tracks from their earlier records. Notable standouts from the show are ‘Lose Control’, ‘I Don’t Mind’ and ‘Better Not Look My Way’. I admit, in my previous review of Broken Glances I didn’t enjoy ‘Lose Control’, however in a live setting it complements the other tracks nicely.

Although some songs still feel out of place in tonight’s set, especially ‘Wolves’ which is a mature new sound, however clearly stands out. But that doesn’t appear to deter the audience from enjoying themselves, giving them time to recover from their opening 20 minutes of madness before Franklin got on stage.

I seek shelter to the stage of the side, away from the rainfall of water and alcohol; both my camera and I are soaked with a new fragrance combination of cider and lager.

I soon retreat to the balcony of the now sweat filled room, as those bottles are still flying all over the place. As The Pigeon Detectives finish off their evening with ‘I’m Not Sorry’, all that’s left is to buy a few drinks and join in with the chaos on the main floor.

The Pigeon Detectives @ O2 Institute 08.03.17 / Michelle Martin – Birmingham Review

For more on The Pigeon Detectives, visit www.thepigeondetectives.com


Franklin – supporting The Pigeon Detectives @ O2 Institute 08.03.17 / Michelle Martin – Birmingham Review

For more on Franklin, visit www.franklinofficial.com


Autopilot – supporting The Pigeon Detectives @ O2 Institute 08.03.17 / Michelle Martin – Birmingham Review

For more on Autopilot, visit www.facebook.com/autopilotmusicuk

For more from the O2 Institute, including a full event programme and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham 

For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com

ALBUM: Semper Femina – Laura Marling



Words by Damien Russell

Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Laura Marling, having lived in both the UK and the US, has a breadth of experience to draw on and has undoubtedly been exposed to a wide variety of musical genres, styles and eras. I say ‘undoubtedly’ because it’s all here for the listening in her new album, Semper Femina.

Over the course of Semper Femina we are treated to the jazz and blues undertones of opening track and first single ‘Soothing’, British folk stylings on ‘The Valley’, ‘Always This Way’ and ‘Wild Once’, Southern rock and blues on ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and a definite country twang to ‘Next Time’ and ‘Nouel’.

A wide and varied mix – one that would be easy to make jarring, but Marling flows from track to track without difficulty. Not seamlessly and certainly not in any kind of concept album style, but making the nine tracks feel like an album, not just a collection of songs.

One of the things that helps with that is the well crafted instrumentation; the string section, double bass, harmonies and guitar take turns in the limelight, rising and falling between tracks and making way for the next ‘lead’ in turn. This means that while the styles move quickly, the instrumentation moves more slowly creating a sense of harmony between the tracks. If deliberate (and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be) it’s masterful and great to see real thought put in to making an album in a world of single track downloads.

Of course nothing’s perfect, and while I absolutely appreciate (and support) the artistry and craftsmanship of Semper Femina I couldn’t help but feel that some of the tracks were too long. I hate to be the guy who complains about track length, and I will sit and listen to 7/8 minute songs when the content is there, but some songs felt more like a set sequence of sections repeated just one too many times for me. If we could have lost thirty seconds off a few of the longer tracks and got one more song on the album; that would have been preferred.

When it comes to individual songs, in so many ways, the album opener is the most important and ‘Soothing’ is a fantastic choice for Semper Femina. One of the strongest tracks on the album, it channels a funky vibe that I could only describe as being what I imagine a Morcheeba/Gotye collaboration might be like. A total winner for me.

Contrastingly, the last track on the album, ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’, is jarring and not to my taste. It comes so close to working itself out but still, unfortunately, so far. I found myself ending Semper Femina and playing ‘Soothing’ again just to keep that positive vibe in my mind. And while each track has its own merits the other outstanding song on Semper Femina for me is ‘Wildfire’, which gave me a real Janis Joplin vibe underneath the definite Laura Marling vibe.

Overall Semper Femina a cracking album; in no way do the few bad points outweigh the good. It’s a fantastic demonstration of Laura Marling‘s talent and feels like considerable effort and thought have gone into the bigger picture, as well as each individual song. Semper Femina is certainly a record that will stay in my playlist and I can’t wait to see some of these tracks brought to life on the O2 Institute stage.

‘Soothing’ – Laura Marling (directed by Laura Marling)


Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Semper Femina by Laura Marling was released on 10th March 2017 by More Alarming Records via Kobalt Music Recordings. For more on Laura Marling, visit www.lauramarling.com