Paramore are determined to show you that they’re not the band they were 15 years ago. putting their focus on last years brilliant 80’s inspired ‘After Laughter’, Hayley & co. show why that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Just reading that headline alone is bound to have made a few early fans of Paramore grimace. it’s a fact of life that nobody likes change, of course though it’s something we all have to go through and for Paramore that has been in both emotional and literal sense. the lineup itself has had eight different members since 2004, before settling on the trio before us this evening.
Tonight see’s Hayley on the defensive, praising how the band and the audience have grown over the years and she’s determined to show just why the ‘New Paramore’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s clear to see she means business from the onset by launching to arguably one of their biggest hits in years ‘Hard Times’ the tropical, synth-laden pop track manages to become even more bouncier and infectious live. A clever little merge of Blondies ‘Heart Of Glass’ shows how the band are managing to effectively embrace their new 80’s inspirations.
It’s to Paramore’s credit that despite their many sounds throughout the years, when performing live they manage to merge them so efficiently, ‘Ignorance’ has always been a full throttle, head thrashing punk single, yet somehow it has lost none of it’s intensity and sits perfectly early in the set between ‘Hard Times’ and equally as poppy and bright ‘Still Into You’.
From there however it’s all about glam and that ‘new Paramore sound’ with an almost breathless streak of ‘After Laughter’ gems, it’s noticeably a much lighter affair then previous shows. A highlight of the section is easily ‘Fake Happy’ the perfect combination of those early relatable and insightful Paramore lyrics that Hayley has got down to a skill over the years, ‘Oh please, don’t ask me how I’ve been, don’t make me play pretend’ and ‘I’m going to draw my lipstick wider than my mouth’ the song hits a note with most of the audience, insecurity has never sounded so pleasant as the piano melody shines and the crowd sing every catchy hook right back at Hayley.
It’s a shame then, that this early momentum isn’t able to be fully maintained. when it comes to the obligatory ballad it feels almost strange that the band choose to integrate ‘Hate To See Your Heart Break’ the song pales in comparison to much loved and absent ‘Only Exception’ and with such a focus on change and new music it’s a missed opportunity to play the beautiful ’26’, deciding to omit it from this British leg of the tour.
This is followed up by raucous renditions of ‘Caught In The Middle’, ‘Told You So’ and ‘Idle Worship’. another three fantastic songs of the latest release, comparing this to there last tour centred round their previous album its apparent that they’ve focused on what makes a gig and music ‘fun’ first and placed their punk tendencies to the side. It was these three songs that really made that decision click for me, it was a smart move. They may have changed but all there new material is very solid and made for the most enjoyable show I’ve been to in months. If you’re a fan of Paramore you’re going to enjoy the night, despite any caution on song choices and new style, thats a guarantee.
That’s not to say the night was perfect, a few odd choices on the bands part made for a weird experience, I’m specifically thinking towards the end of the night. The evening had been full of tiny breaks between songs where Hayley would fill in the gaps with tiny speeches of gratitude and moments of reflection on how far everyone has come since the beginning of the band, an unbelievable 15 years ago now.
The longest of these speeches came just before ‘Misery Business’. Released way back in 2007 from their much love punk album ‘Riot’ the song fast became and still remains one of their biggest hits, it even comes with a tradition of bringing crowd members on stage to finish the final verse (a rare occasion tonight actually see’s two crowd members brought up), it’s always an empowering and sweet moment but tonight you can’t help but feel that as Hayley goes into a detailed explanation of how she’s not the same girl she was back when she wrote the song that both her attitude and the song are tinged with regret and dismay about singing the hit. Yes the lyrics may be dated, but the only person seemingly judging Williams on the song is herself and it’s never nice to see a rockstar begrudgingly play any song.
Another odd choice comes with the production, an Arena band of Paramore’s experience and length in the industry surely know how to put on a good show. You’d expect with such an upbeat and tropical album full of colourful music videos, you’d witness an equally bright show. Unfortunately that’s not the case and apart from a mixture of multicoloured lights the setting felt bland and industrial. A front woman like Hayley Williams can and did carry the show with her momentum and enthusiasm, however it certainly feels like a missed opportunity to not take advantage of the large open setting and themes the album presented.
The main set was brought to a close with a truly enormous rendition of ‘Ain’t It Fun’ which sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, a sea of multicoloured heads were rocking out and simply enjoying life to the uplifting anthem. It was the perfect set closer, which made the encore song choices even more bizarre.
The band returned for a timid play through of older album track ‘Grow Up’ before the now reunited guitarist Zac Farro was given the limelight to showcase one of his tiny side project HalfNoise songs ‘French Class’. While it’s a lovely gesture to shine a spotlight on your friends music, it was placed at an incredibly strange time in the set, much more suited for a place midway or even placed as an extra support act.
With the mood now unusually solemn, having been brought down quite a few notches since the highs of ‘Ain’t It Fun’, It felt like the last song would truly need to reignite fan’s spirits and ‘Rose Colored Boy’ did just that. It’s the most cheesy 80’s pop song the band have in their arsenal and whilst witnessing it, I feel almost as if I’ve been transported back in time, watching Hayley feels like I’m watching a young Cyndi Lauper bouncing around the stage.
They save their best trick for last however, with a touching nod to Whitney Houston as the band fade the track into ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, as the band leave stage, the crowd refuse to quietly disperse, instead thousands of young teenage fans continue to sing and dance to Whitney as she blares out across the PA systems.
The night feels almost bittersweet, Paramore no longer need to prove themselves as a live band, If the band and Hayley in particular really want to show that they’ve changed from those young kids blaring out punk to a Warped Tour, they need to focus on the love and appreciation fans are showing them and their new sound in the present rather than wallowing in choices made in the past.
Hard Times (includes Heart Of Glass)
Still Into You
That’s What You Get
I Caught Myself
Hate To See Your Heart Break
Caught In The Middle
Told You So
No Friend (with Aaron Weiss)
Ain’t It Fun
French Class (HalfNoise cover with Zac on vocals)
Rose Colored Boy (includes I Wanna Dance With Somebody)