They came, they played, they rocked, they conquered. Of course they did. This band can do no wrong for their loyal fans, and those loyal fans packed the Manchester Arena for gig # four of a five date UK tour.
The US EMO stars were loud, aggressive, powerful, energetic and full of attitude and swagger. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold, frosty, January night. The set list of 19 songs, was heavy on tracks from the current album “After Laughter”, which was no bad thing.
But the biggies were still there; and their first hit single, “Misery Business”, got perhaps the loudest cheer some 11 years after it first blasted them into orbit. The penultimate song of the main set, before “Ain’t It Fun”.
On “Misery Business”, three fans got to sing the bridge; given a life long memory and a story they’ll dine out on forever. That’s what a decent gig is, isn’t it though? A treasured memory, a moment frozen in time; glorious music, sounds, sights and emotions relived in the head and the heart for a lifetime – if it hits the right spot.
Tonight’s epic show, the penultimate date on the UK leg of their world tour – Cardiff, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow – did just that for around 17,000 happy people. Oh, 17,001, if you count our man with the camera, Mr Gray!!
The venue has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK, at 21,000, and the second largest in the European Union. It was closed for four months last year, following the horrific terrorist attack in May 2017 at an Ariana Grande concert, where 22 people lost their lives and more than 250 were inured by a suicide bomber. The venue re-opened in September 2017 for an emotional benefit concert, headlined by Manchester-born former Oasis member Noel Gallagher.
Tonight, part of the upper area of the venue was blacked out, so the capacity was a wee bit less. The crowd are a mixed age range, but mainly young folk who are out for a great time. They were not disappointed. The band feed off the energy of the audience and vice versa. That is perhaps true of all bands and artists at any venue, but it was of particular palpability tonight, and from what I have read, on all of their UK and European tour dates thus far.
Sheer style and class…
The punters singing along not only to the best known hits, but to the newer stuff too, word perfect and with as much passion as the stuff the band are most famous for. Paramore’s sheer style and class shines through on the whole set, not just on the big songs.
Hayley Williams is a master at work as the main focus; the ring master of this spectacular musical circus. She struts, she prowls, she growls, she prances, she dances, she’s menacing and inviting at the same time. Doubtful any single inch of that vast stage was left untrodden by Ms Williams tonight.
At one point, she crouches low at the front of the stage, unladylike with her legs splayed, megaphone to her mouth with her microphone dangled in front of it. Kind of a “roll up, roll up,” moment. Come see and hear the greatest show on earth, symbolism.
As rock bands and rock shows go, this is not your average one-night stand. This is the Paramore experience! It is as if Hayley and her compatriots are treating this gig as the first night of a tour. I am told by those who have seen the band a few times, that’s how it always is. Special. It is impossible to trawl the net and find a bad review, to be honest.
They do not act like a band who have been around 15 years and on their umpteenth tour. No lack of hunger and fire in their belly here folks. They have grown and developed, matured and tweaked their music and direction to stay current and on-trend. But never alienated their stalwart fans who loved them at first listen of “Misery Business” back in 2007.
Many mega acts who are obliged to play and sing their string of hits and get bored shit-less in doing so, tend to change the arrangement or stick a bunch of hits into a rushed and abbreviated medley, when they get to a certain stage in their lengthy careers. Not Paramore. No Siree, Bob!
If you want to hear their classics the way you heard ‘em on the radio back in the day, that is exactly what you get. There’s that saying;’ a week is a long time in politics’. Well, 15 years is a lifetime for most bands, but this lot are still well and truly ‘at it’ with all the vim and vigour of their early days, it seems.
Hayley’s voice is perfect and fills the cavernous auditorium with ease. Taylor York’s incendiary guitar playing is on fire (see what I did there?). Zac Farro, having re-joined the band to record the new album, is the main piston in the engine, behind his huge drum kit.
Williams and Faro formed the band in 2003 in their home town of Franklin, Tennessee, a stone’s throw from Music City, Nashville where they are now based. York was a High School friend of Williams and Farro, and joined in 2007. Hayley Williams is the only member to appear on all five of their studio albums; the only constant in the band.
For this tour they are joined by four other musicians; rhythm guitarist/keyboards, rhythm guitarist/backing vocals, percussionist and bassist. The lighting is low key, moody and quite dark at times. Hayley’s bright blonde locks often shining out of the darkness and the rest of her in shadow.
The crowd clap along and create a sparkling horizon of prettiness with their iPhones lighting up the arena from front to back and up to the roof, and I’ll bet some will wake up today without a voice, after the vocal assistance they gave Hayley last night!
Corrie, Eastenders, Celebrity Big Brother or Paramore?
All in all; the choice was simple: Stay in on this Friday night to watch Anna Windass in court in Weatherfield or Abbie Branning’s life support machine switched off in Albert Square, followed by Celebrity Big Brother – which often resembles a trip on a night bus these days; as Manc’ icon Shan Ryder told me recently: He thinks it is like “a house full of people with mental issues having shit loads of booze thrown in to them”.
Or… grab a ticket for Manchester Arena and soak up The Paramore experience. Paramore: “Lover, romantic partner, a sweetheart”. Yep; 17,000 people were well and truly smitten last night, a month before Valentine’s Day – as many, many more will surely be on this world tour.
The guys and gal are off to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, The Philippines, Japan, Hawaii, and then back to the USA following their triumphant UK and European shows. They are due back in Manchester in June for a festival appearance – sadly not the one in Lancashire, but the one in their home State of Tennessee, for the fabulous and massive Bonnaroo festival. They’ll smash it…
All Photos: Mike Gray
Words: Simon Redley
Hard Times – which features a little of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass
Still Into You
That’s What You Get
I Caught Myself
Hate To See Your Heart Break
Caught In The Middle
Told You So
No friend – which featured vocals from Aaron Weiss
Misery Business – where three fans are chosen to sing the bridge
Ain’t It Fun
French Class (HalfNoise cover)
Rose-Colored Boy (which features snippets of Tom Tom Club’s Genius Of Love and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody)