Considering After Laughter was my #1 album of 2017, Paramore had a lot to live up to in terms of the expectations I had for the live show.
While I had no doubt that the performance would only further cement my love and connection for the songs that defined my year, I didn’t anticipate my expectations being surpassed. What Tour Three taught me, however, is to never underestimate Paramore’s unwavering ability to always be better than they were even the day before.
Regardless of pain or loss or heartbreak, Hayley and Taylor (and now Josh, too) will always push the boundaries and go beyond what the media or the doubters have to say about them. They will always prove that they are more than a headline story. Their defence doesn’t come through words, but through their uninhibited talent, and through the way they continue to give everything they have in order to put on the best show of their lives, night after night.
For a band to stay the same forever, it would require each member to plateau as a human being; not experiencing life as any regular person would, as a result continually growing and changing. The members of Paramore have experienced a lot more than the average person over the course of their career, and subsequently have grown as a band. You may not like the route that they’ve taken, and that’s fine, but to discount Paramore’s experiences, the raw emotion, and the fierce music that was born from that, is to wish that they’d have stayed teenagers forever. And no one deserves to have to endure that kind of pain.
The first thing I noticed (and admired), was that as the band took to the stage following support by the incredible and haunting mewithoutYou, there was no order to their entrance. There was no suspenseful moment as we all clapped politely yet somewhat insincerely as we waited for front woman Hayley Williams to appear, as so frequently happens with the lead person of a band. Whether intentional or not, this simple act screamed equality. No single member of this band is more important than the others, because every single person on that stage has led them to be where they are today.
This concept was solidified throughout the show, as while Hayley is clearly a very confident front woman, she also finds great comfort in her bandmates, frequently closing the proximity between them, or looking their way at regular intervals during the most emotional moments. This has never been, and will never be, The Hayley Show.
The band has been through a hell of a lot over the past few years since the self-titled era ended, and even before that if you consider the pain of losing Josh and Zac Farro during the Brand New Eyes era, and so while Still Into You might have initially been written with a person in mind, the fact that on this Sunday night in Birmingham it was dedicated to Paramore was an incredibly important moment for both the band and the thousands of fans in that crowd. To think that the band stood in front of us may have ceased to exist were it not for Taylor’s strength in Hayley’s hardest times is a difficult thought to swallow, and yet it makes the fact that they are powering on (arguably better than ever) even more incredible.
One thing you can always count on at a Paramore show is the endless energy that oozes from each person on stage, and how this energy seems to seep into the pores of the audience members as they give everything they have from the very first notes of Hard Times, to the very last notes of Rose-Colored Boy. This kind of vitality is something that we’ve never needed more, considering the fact that despite its joyful tones, After Laughter is not a happy album. To be able to feel this energy resonating around the arena was all that prevented me, at least, from falling into a heap on the floor as we witnessed some of the most hard hitting lyrics coming directly from the woman that experienced first hand the pain that lives within them.
That Paramore are experienced show people is undeniable. Their ability to transition between tracks and somehow make that transition a poignant moment of the show is admirable. I particularly marvelled at the way That’s What You Get lingered on into the start of Pool, retrospectively highlighting the danger of giving your heart to someone and what forgiving them over and over will mean for your relationship.
The band members have grown up. Their experiences have changed them, and whether that’s shown through the lyrical content of their songs or through the way they acknowledge mistakes made in the past, there’s no denying that over the course of their 15 year career, there has been a monumental level of maturation among the members. As feminism becomes a more commonly used word, shedding itself of stigma, women are more inclined to be supporting other women, and Hayley Williams is one of those that has embraced the title with pride. With that, of course, comes a certain denunciation of their most popular song Misery Business, which Hayley explicitly stated prior to them launching into the song, wherein she covered her mouth as “that line” approached. Furthermore, Paramore have taken this song and made it a fan opportunity during their live shows, consistently inviting a fan (or 2, or 3) on stage to help them out with the bridge. This fan connection is unreal, particularly as you witness Hayley agonising over who to pick before finally choosing a very enthusiastic male named Ty, and someone she recognised from another show – a fan named Sam. While most bands might offer these guest members muted microphones, Paramore allows their fans to live out their rockstar dreams as the whole crowd hears them scream out the lyrics that no doubt partially make up the soundtrack of their lives thus far. There isn’t a single second during the latter half of Misery Business where anyone on stage is complacent in their role as a performer, as Hayley uses her vocal respite as an opportunity to run around the stage, subsequently bumping into the every enthusiastic Taylor York, knocking over a speaker in the process.
After a fun-filled performance of the Grammy award winning song Ain’t It Fun, the band took a break before returning for the encore, during which Zac emerged from behind his drums to take centre stage and perform one of Half Noise’s most widely known songs, French Class. While some in the crowd may not have been familiar with Zac’s work with his other project, this felt like a token of the rest of the band’s appreciation and gratitude for Zac returning the band, and as dorky dance moves ensued, the connection between the 3 band members felt as strong as it had ever been.
As always, Paramore closed the show with those 3 words that will forever have their fans screaming with pride: