Paramore peddles new pop, old punk at Paramount Theatre

Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams sings at the band's Paramount Theatre performance on Sunday.
Imad Pasha/Staff

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For a minimum price of $75 — and up through the plainly exorbitant $100+ range — one could see Paramore’s punk-turned-pop brand at The Paramount Theatre last Sunday. Perhaps those prices are the single most emblematic sign of the band’s pop conversion.

And yet, it was the band’s older, more punk hits —  the likes of “Misery Business” and “That’s What You Get” — that had the crowd headbanging the hardest, a sign that Paramore has fans loyal enough to stick around, but who are not necessarily all in on the band’s transformation.

“If you’ve been hanging out with Paramore for a while, then you know we’ve written some pretty angsty stuff,” frontwoman Hayley Williams said at one point, to raucous screams. “Not sure what we we were so angry about,” she continued, almost wistfully.   

Along with bringing a heavy dose of nostalgia, those angsty songs highlighted the band’s performance acumen as well. Drummer Zac Farro, who left the band in 2010 and returned for the band’s latest album, is an absolute joy to watch at work. The man has something special, an ability to turn his drum set into a foreground, dynamic instrument whether the song has a complex punk beat or a driving pop one.

“God Bless 2007,” Williams intoned after having instructed the crowd to close their eyes and remember that year in a toast — to a year of sharp bangs, tight jeans and a life revolving around Vans Warped Tour. “That was us, too,” she said.

The mood was thus set for the hotly awaited “Misery Business,” though the changing times made themselves known when Williams invited several fans onstage to sing the final chorus but had to literally confiscate their phones from them after weathering a litany of selfie attempts — which was as cringy and awkward as you might imagine. That’s 2017, I guess.

All things considered, The Paramount Theatre was also probably not the best place to see Paramore. The theater was beautiful, albeit entirely seated (a scourge I’ve aired my complaints against due to the limitations it places on the energized environment at rock shows).

To make matters worse, it was clearly not acoustically designed for heavy, amplified live music. For the majority of the show, the sound quality was muddy, blended by the hall’s reverb and mushed together into a mess of guitars and drums. Outside of the softer interludes, Williams’ vocals weren’t clearly audible, though that wasn’t a problem for the screaming fans who needed little cue from her to sing along.

Mostly, the band performed to choruses of overwhelming cheers that seemed to shatter the air and eardrums alike in a reminder that while the band has a diverse enough set of fans, it has truly been a focal point for girls in a grossly male-dominated genre.

Williams, of course, dominated the stage setup, despite her best attempts — particularly near the end of the show — to name and highlight the other musicians on stage with her. Part of that came down to the diffusion that occurs when you have more touring musicians on stage than band members (3-piece Paramore brought 4 touring extras), which, given their relative stasis in the back of the stage and out of the spotlight, gave the night the vibe of a single artist rather than a band. It was a frustrating contradiction with her statements defining the band as a cohesive unit.

But on the whole, that wasn’t such a bad thing; Williams is a dynamic and energetic performer with a killer voice. And despite the slightly uncomfortable rubbings between her “we made the right choice to spend this time hanging out together” mentality and the corporate-smelling ticket prices people had to pay to do so, it appeared that fans were simply satisfied to have shared the space with the icons of their angst-ridden childhoods.

Imad Pasha covers music. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @prappleizer.