Words by: Jessica Bragg
The 11th of January 2018 is a date I am unlikely to forget. Attending Paramore’s third live performance of the year, left me with a recharged zest for life (and 80s pop hits). The Tennessee rock band have recently dropped their latest album After Laughter and have been promoting their latest songs. However, the 80s synth pop sound they carry cleverly contrasts the raw emotion within the lyrics. For their second After Laughter UK tour cycle, they returned to Cardiff after a much-needed break to craft their fifth studio album whilst coming to terms with their past and redefining their entire genre.
Along with the musical differences, their image has also been reinvented with an inflection of 80s colour and checkerboard patterns. Traditionally, front woman Hayley Williams sports a fiery red/orange head of hair; however for this era she has opted for a white blonde, which she deems “a clean slate” from her previous identities.
For their live show in Cardiff, they mostly played songs from their newest album. Some of these songs were being played for the first few times, something that was clearly emotionally difficult for the band as they have revealed so much of their inner feelings in the songs. Specifically, ‘Pool’ is about Hayley’s ex-husband and how their relationship soured, of which she so powerfully and openly delivered. Another few of their songs ‘Idle Worship’ and ‘No Friend’ were also played due to the convenience of Mewithoutyou supporting them on this tour, with their front man Aaron Weiss featuring in the latter song. ‘No Friend’ acts as an outro to ‘Idle Worship’, both of which reveal the band’s feelings towards being idolised and how fame has affected them over the years. These songs were initially hard for fans to listen to for obvious reasons, however more fans are using this as an opportunity to stop idolising people and actually respect the band for putting their perspective out there.
As if the music and giant circular lighting panel wasn’t retro enough, the band spruced up some of their songs by adding in a few lines from some popular vintage artists that they take inspiration from. Their new single ‘Hard Times’ ended with a chorus from Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’, while another of their new songs ‘Rose Coloured Boy’ ended with a chorus of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna’ Dance With Somebody’.
With most of the gig being taken up mostly by new songs, it was no surprise to learn that some fans wished there was more of their old songs and that they “miss the old Paramore”. This was actually commented under a post on Paramore’s instagram page the night of the gig, which was swiftly matched with a sarcastic comment from the lady herself; Hayley has stressed that this new era is a release for them and the false happiness that came from their previous albums, and that if anyone misses their ‘old style’ they can “watch it on youtube” as they won’t be returning to their past anytime soon. Although for most, the number of older songs played was enough to evoke some nostalgia. They played some classics from their heyday such as: ‘Ignorance’ featuring the megaphone, ‘Still Into You’ from their self titled era, and ‘That’s What You Get’. Of course, it eventually became time for the fan favourite ‘Misery Business’ to be played, for which a young man from Bristol was plucked from the audience to sing alongside the band. Coming back to new songs, the band’s own Zac Farro even stepped up to perform ‘French Class’ from his own band Halfnoise’s selection. During the bridge of ‘French Class’, Hayley and Zac had prepared a short dance number to perform, which put a smile on everyone’s face I’m sure.
Overall, it was a heavily 80s influenced gig unlike any other Paramore performance. Even when we thought the first After Laughter UK tour was different enough, the band continues to surprise us and change their sound and image to reflect their mood, something that makes them both vulnerable and courageous. Although they seem to shed their skins every album cycle, Paramore are still the band we know and love as a small town rock band from Franklin doing what they love, and reminding us at every gig that “we – are – Paramore”.