It’s always astonishing and heartwarming in equal measure to see how receptive the public are to Paramore. For a band who’ve weathered as much turbulence as they have, they certainly deserve some good will thrown their way, but there’s always been something about them as a band that unites the camps and steamrolls over any notion of genre division. That’s particularly true now off the back of their pivot to ’80s pop on After Laughter, an album that only gets better with each repeated listen and has the insane pulling power that has become a staple of Paramore albums at this point. So it’s no surprise to see another tour packed out across the board, and given the diversity of all demographics in attendance here, that Paramore magic seems to have worked once again.
One tradition of Paramore tours that’s less agreeable though, is filling the undercard with obtuse acts that frequently face much tougher scrutiny, and it’s not like mewithoutYou (4) can sidestep that issue. Their folk-infused post-hardcore might sound interesting on paper (and really, the spacious arena mix doesn’t do justice to its intricacies), but there’s so little life there as each song just slots in place without any kind of nuance or distinction, and in front of a crowd who clearly couldn’t care less, it predictably doesn’t go well. The fact that their biggest reaction comes when Hayley Williams joins them onstage speaks volumes.
Speaking of Hayley Williams and the rest of her Paramore (9) bandmates, their issues with working a crowd like this prove to be minimal to nonexistent. For one, they actually have stage presence, with a bulked-up seven-person lineup replete with keys and additional percussion that lets these songs really pop. As for Williams herself, it’s not difficult to see why she’s frequently placed among modern rock’s biggest stars, with the sort of firebrand performance that oozes superstar appeal but in her direct addresses to the crowd especially, is unafraid to let a profoundly human core shine through.
What’s more, Paramore prove themselves to be the sort of band for whom building real moments in this environment isn’t a problem, and comes at a higher frequency than the majority of bands can muster. The pin-drop silence during the intensely personal, stripped-back 26 is totally breathtaking, and though their older material mightn’t have the same spark about it (you can really tell that Williams herself feels this in a particularly exasperated introduction to Misery Business), as a slice of mid-to-late-2000s pop-rock, the likes of Ignorance and That’s What You Get remain virtually unbeatable.
But Paramore have clearly grown from that now, and given the heavy emphasis on newer material and interpolations of both Blondie’s Heart Of Glass and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, they’re taking their pop leanings as far as they can go. And while this would usually be an unnecessarily divisive move, there are two major things to take into consideration here – one: the fact that the likes of Hard Times and Ain’t It Fun are already treated like the classics they deserve to be by a baying crowd says a lot for how successful Paramore’s trajectory has been, and two: Paramore are simply ridiculously good at what they do. Sure, the return of mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss to reprise his role on No Friend comes a bit too far out of left field, but otherwise, this is hit after hit after hit. Still Into You; Pool; Caught In The Middle; Idle Worship; there’s just something about these songs that clicks so satisfyingly in the live environment regardless of your opinion on the band’s last two poppier albums, and with the swirling lighting rig that mirrors that technicolour sheen, Paramore capture the fun of an arena show better and more effortlessly than so many. Even when drummer Zac Farro comes to the front to air a track from his HalfNoise project, there’s such a sense of levity and vibrancy that it’s easy to look past the fact that the majority of the crowd don’t actually know it.
And once again, that’s indicative of Paramore’s biggest strength, particularly as a live band – the ability to bring people together for the best time. Few bands in their lane will own the pop appeal as much as they do, but that subsequently makes them even more effective, a band who transcend the boundaries between rock and pop, and who remain comfortable with just making great music that connects so profoundly on a scale like this. In that regard if nothing else, Paramore are among the best bands on the planet.
Words by Luke Nuttall