At first, the screaming was so deafening that for a moment I was actually afraid.
Then the moment passed, and I remembered where I was and what was going on. I was at a concert. The intermission after the opening act of Best Coast was over, and all seven members of Paramore had just run out onto the stage.
Paramore is tied to an interesting brand of fan culture. Older bands typically spearhead devoted groups of longtime listeners, many of whom know the band’s history and can list every album chronologically, whereas the concerts of more recent groups are often attended by younger fans who are primarily excited about material from the last few years. Paramore walks the line comfortably between these two groups, which is part of why their concerts are always so much fun: there are people who just started listening to them (thanks to singles like “Ain’t It Fun” and “Still Into You”), and people who have followed their journey all the way back since Riot!, and even All We Know Is Falling.
No matter which side of the aisle you fall on, though, the level of energy at their live shows is undeniable.
The pop punk band kicked off Friday night’s concert with “Hard Times,” the foot-stomping single off their newest album, After Laughter. From there they plunged straight through consecutive, roof-raising performances of hits like “Ignorance,” “Still Into You” and “Daydreaming.” The show never seemed to falter — Paramore has so many catchy songs from so many successful records that every opening chord progression seemed to throw the crowd into a frenzy. The band skated easily between their own songs, with equal enthusiasm for older hits like “That’s What You Get” as for newer ones like “Forgiveness” and “Brick By Boring Brick.”
Hayley Williams herself was a force of inexorable energy. She strutted around the stage, flipped her hair and weight-lifted the microphone stand with one hand, all without losing the dynamic force of her vocal performance.
The entire night, Williams commanded an intriguing and telling presence, in that the audience’s mood always felt mirrored to her own. When she was on her feet, jumping and shouting along to her own lyrics, so was everyone else; people cheered at the top of their lungs, and bouncy balls pinballed around the lower level of the theater. And when she settled back down momentarily to thank us for coming and to talk about her feelings, we settled, too.
“This is one of those nights where it feels like you don’t know how this happened, it’s like it’s not deserved,” she said. “It feels like a really special night to talk about feelings.”
There were a few intimate moments like this. Part of it came through the music itself — during slower songs like “26” and “Hate to See Your Heart Break,” audience members closed their eyes and swayed, waving the lights from their phones back and forth in the air. But a big part of it came from Williams herself; every sentence she uttered came off as truly genuine, and when she talked to the audience as one might a friend, she managed to make even The Fox’s huge venue seem intimate. When she spoke of the band’s appreciation for how far their fans have taken them since Riot!, one got the sense that she really was speaking from the heart.
“I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself ten years ago,” she said at one point. “Ten years ago, it was 2007 — that’s math — and it was a very different time, especially for good old bands like us. And we just so happened to put out our second record, it was called Riot!, that year, and we set out across the United States of America on the Warped Tour … And it was beautiful because that year, we met so many of you. It was a big year for us.”
By the time the show was over, there were plenty of fun moments to look back on: a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” the moment Paramore invited a fan onstage to sing the end of “Misery Business” and the fact that they dedicated the show, “like every show we play in Detroit,” to a fan named Papa Smurf who once gave Williams a pair of earrings in 2005. But what resonated perhaps the most was the band’s genuine effort to include the audience in the fun of the performance as much as they could.
Williams closed out the encore by introducing the rest of the performers: Justin York, Logan McKenzie, Joe Mullen, Joey Howard, Taylor York and Zac Farro. “And all together, we represent something that’s bigger than each one of us alone,” she finished. “So who are we?”
And when the audience shouted back, “We are Paramore!” it sounded as if, in that moment, everyone in the whole theater was telling the truth.