Paramore: Live Last Night
By Chris Richards
If there's a line that separates a sugar rush from an adrenaline gush, then Hayley Williams knows how to walk it. She's the 20-year-old singer of Paramore, a Tennessee quintet specializing in brash, hyper-melodic rock-and-roll punk tunes that sound like power ballads sped up to the beat of a racing teenage heart.
When Paramore landed at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday, those same songs felt designed to provoke teenage lungs. Williams is smart enough to insert at least one giant, avalanching "Everybody sing!" moment into every Paramore song, and Friday's near-capacity crowd joined in with the whoa-ohh-ohhs of "That's What You Get" and the ba-domp-bomp-bomping of "Brick by Boring Brick" as if it were an involuntary response.
(Whiplash hooks ensue, after the jump.)
MTV was there to capture it all -- as well as opening performances from AFI, Dead by Sunrise and Kid Cudi -- and will parse the concert into a one-hour special that will double as a promotional spot for the new "Twilight" movie. Obviously.
With its fantastic third album, "Brand New Eyes," setting up camp on the Billboard charts, Paramore seemed ready for its close-up. Williams's hair changes colors faster than the autumn foliage surrounding Merriweather, and Friday it was a glowing, platinum blond. She skipped across the stage, belting out hook after whiplash hook, while her bandmates ripped through "Misery Business" and "Ignorance," two unimpeachable hits with jolting, stop-and-go refrains that felt like descendants of Nirvana's soft-then-loud blueprint.
Guitarists Josh Farro and Taylor York stood sentinel during the chipper bounce of "Looking Up" while Williams exploded across the stage, pointing fingers and pumping fists. When the song reached its head-banging finale, the guitarists slumped into a wide-legged stance and nodded their neatly trimmed coifs toward the screaming throng. (There's a pejorative term for bands that over-embrace this weird squatting pose: "crabcore.")
But for a group so vivacious, Paramore's brilliance still lies in its teeny-tiny tweaks to the exhausted emo-punk canon -- a sound that keeps the Warped Tour rolling summer after miserable summer. Tightness is the ultimate virtue for punk bands of this ilk -- a bland, suffocating stiffness that's been handed down from Blink-182 through the bloodlines of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance.
And while the boys of Paramore are no slouches, they're just a touch sloppier than their peers, creating an almost imperceptible looseness that gives their music such compelling swing. Without it, Williams's vocal acrobatics would land in some godforsaken dead zone between "American Idol" and Radio Disney.
You could feel it during "Decode," one of the moodier tunes in the Paramore songbook. It graced the original "Twilight" soundtrack, and as the song's opening riffs began to chime, a camera mounted on a robotic crane swooped over the crowd, zooming in on the stage like some strange animal trained to sniff out product synergy.
The band paid it no mind and during the song's pummeling instrumental interlude, Williams danced into the background where drummer Zac Farro was dutifully bashing away. He played it hard and ham-fisted, as if completely aware that his band's magic resides in these nanoseconds of imprecision. Whether or not it would translate to MTV didn't matter. In the damp autumn air, with thousands of fans waiting on the drum fill that would catapult Williams back into the song, everything sounded just about perfect.
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