Paramore – Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/06/17

Paramore Tour One poster design

I wasn’t impressed by Bleached‘s opening set. Their music just isn’t my cup of tea. Vocalist Jennifer Clavin has a distinctive tone, but there’s not much variation in it: once you’ve heard one of their songs, you’ve pretty much heard them all. A lot of their songs blended together, and not one of them has remained stuck in my head this morning.

I can tell you who was impressed, though: Paramore’s frontwoman, Hayley Williams. Early in their set, I spotted her dancing side stage by the sound desk, singing along without restraint. She tweeted her appreciation and thanked them during Paramore’s set, claiming that they “put on such a sick show tonight, literally insane!”.

Bleached and Paramore’s friendship began a few years ago, when Bleached played Nashville. Jennifer shared the story, explaining “Hayley drove down to the show to give us some hair dye from [Good Dye Young]”, because Jennifer and guitarist Jessica Clavin used to have blue and pink hair respectively. Jennifer’s since stopped dying her hair, but she announced, “If you want to dye your hair, do it! It’s awesome! Let’s bring some colour to this world.”

The band are definitely talented, and it’s great to see a female-dominated line-up playing punk music, they just aren’t to my taste. You love Bleached if you wee a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: they would have been the perfect band to play The Bronze, a nightclub filled with independent artists doing their own thing.

Setlist:

Waiting By the Telephone
Trying To Lose Myself
Keep On Keepin’ On
Can You Deal?
Wednesday Night Melody
Sleepwalking
Think of You
Turn to Rage
Territorial Pissings (cover)
Sour Candy
Dead in Your Head

Within seconds of Paramore taking to the stage, I was in floods of tears. I don’t often react this emotionally; that’s just how much this band mean to me. I’d seen them once before, when they co-headlined Reading Festival back in 2014, but this was my first experience of a proper Paramore show.

It’s been four years since the band last toured the UK, and Hayley made a point of apologising for how long their return has taken. Joking that the band “had a little bit of separation anxiety [because] we don’t normally spend this length of time away”, it explains why the UK and Europe were announced as Tour One (North America’s Tour Two being a couple of months away).

Of course, the fans were excited to get their band back. Since they last visited our shores, they’ve undergone another line-up change: original bassist Jeremy Davis departed, while drummer and founding member Zac Farro returned to the band after a seven-year absence. That, combined with the release of fifth full-length album, ‘After Laughter’, meant a very different trio were returning. Hayley joked about it during their set, saying, “We’ve taken you on a rollercoaster ride. You’re welcome! Some people enjoy that…”.

The alterations didn’t dampen the crowd’s reaction, though. As soon as ‘Told You So’ kicked in, fans jumped up in their seats and started dancing enthusiastically, and they didn’t stand still until the band left the stage.

Paramore

If you didn’t know ‘After Laughter’ only came out a month ago, you wouldn’t have guessed. The collection of songs means a lot to the band – Hayley has been particularly open about that – and fans have embraced them unquestioningly. Yes, they’re different to anything the band have previously released, but they ooze Paramore.

They played six songs from the new album. Every one fitted in perfectly amongst the older material. ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ was a particular highlight. The moment it started, every person in the room threw their arms in the air. The “Low-key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather!” refrain echoed through the venue, every fan singing it with a smile on their face. It’s undeniable that the lyrics on ‘After Laughter’ are melancholy and reflective, but the music is so upbeat that it fills you with hope and positivity.

It was a surprised-filled setlist. Bringing back ‘Turn It Off’, ‘I Caught Myself’ and ‘Playing God’, they worked hard to play a range of material. They squeezed in a cover – Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’, which Hayley shared was “a song [they] listened to a lot” while recording ‘After Laughter’ – and allowed Zac Farro to take the spotlight to perform a track from his solo project, HalfNoise, in the encore.

Paramore's Riot!

They neglected their older material (playing nothing from their debut album, and only two singles from ‘Riot!’). It was a shame but it made sense, because this night was about development and growth. Hayley revisited this theme multiple times while talking to the crowd. “It’s so nice to be surrounded by people we literally grew up making music with,” she said, after briefly talking to some fans.

The band seemed overwhelmed to be playing the Royal Albert Hall. Looking around in awe, Hayley called the venue “the most beautiful place, which we probably thought we were never gonna play”. Towards the end of the night, she announced, “If you told me ten years ago that we’d be playing here, I would have thrown up! I kinda wanna throw up, just thinking about it…”. It’s not the biggest venue that the band have ever played, but it does have a legendary status. It’s also extremely intimate. Hayley was able to high-five fans stood up in their seats, even singing to a couple of them!

‘Riot!’ is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year, so there was some reflection over that. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years,” Hayley admitted. “it goes by, just like that!”. To celebrate, Hayley decided to do something special. Instead of inviting one fan on stage to perform ‘Misery Business’, she invited a horde of people up. It was heart-warming: you could tell they were having the time of their lives, dancing and singing their lungs out.

Setlist:

Told You So
That’s What You Get
Brick By Boring Brick
Still Into You
Caught in the Middle
Turn It Off
Decode
I Caught Myself
Hate To See Your Heart Break
Fake Happy
Everywhere (cover)
Rose-Colored Boy
Playing God
Ain’t It Fun
Misery Business

Forgiveness
Scooby’s in the Back (HalfNoise)
Hard Times

There’s so much more I could say about this evening, because it was extremely special. From Hayley’s inspirational speech promoting peace and kindness before ‘Hate To See Your Heart Break’, to her wearing a bra on her head during closer ‘Hard Times’, every moment was sheer brilliance. I think this could easily win the award for best gig of 2017.

That being said, I am see the band again TOMORROW. So, who knows, things could get even better!