During the second song of Paramore's summer tour kick-off show in Raleigh, NC, Friday night, feisty frontwoman Hayley Williams leapt up on a monitor, red hair flying, and sang, "Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure?"
In unison, the sold-out, 5,000-plus Raleigh Amphitheater crowd answered the lyric as if locked on repeat: "We were born for this!"
The song, "Born for This," is a fitting description for the Franklin, TN, pop-punk group who have ascended from the Warped Tour stage to become one of the country's biggest musical draws. Friday's show marked their debut as headliners for the two-month Honda Civic Tour, with opening acts Tegan and Sara, New Found Glory, and Kadawatha. The recentSPIN cover stars' latest record, Brand New Eyes, was named one of our40 Best Albums of 2009 -- and large crowds are turning out for them wherever they play.
This first night was a near-perfect mix of meticulously planned and faithfully executed chaos and calm.
The band's ballads were tender and intimate, while the incisive rockers were tight and emphatic. The setlist was dynamic, too, gathering most of the hits and several deeper cuts from each of the band's three albums (and, of course, from Twilight, the thrill-an-instant "Decode") into about 90 minutes.
The Coldplay grandeur of "The Only Exception," for instance, was all shimmering splendor delivered to the glow of thousands of cell phones. The entreating "My Heart" exploded into metalcore menace with backing growls and kickdrum blasts.
Mid-set, the band rushed offstage as the crew rushed on. For five minutes, shadows moved drumheads and furniture, building a center-stage lounge. Paramore returned and spread along the red sofa beside the old-fashioned lamp to play three songs with a smaller drumkit and turned-down guitars. "We thought we'd be able to hear you sing better this way," Williams told the crowd in her winning, best-friend stage persona. And she was right: When she started singing, the audience did, too.
Opening for Paramore, Sweden's Kadawatha and Florida's New Found Glory were all energy and anthems. Kadawatha ignored the early evening heat, writhing and flailing about the stage, its romantic swells of electronics-graced emo seemingly fueled by sweat.
New Found Glory left very few party tricks untried. Racing around the stage in a black shirt that read "Pop punk's not dead," frontman Jordan Pudnik shoved his microphone at the audience for help on one hook. There were cue cards for audience sing-alongs, and guitarist Chad Gilbert, Williams' longtime boyfriend, shouted his own variation on a hip-hop mantra during one tune: "Ain't no party like a NFG party/ 'cuz a NFG party don't stop."
Backstage before show, Tegan and Sara confessed to opening-band jitters after years of headlining their own tours. They adjusted, though, smartly opening with "The Con," the bouncy, brazen title track from their excellent 2007 album. With its countering guitars and washes of synthesizer, "The Con" introduced the five-piece band to any fans unfamliar with their idiosyncratic hooks and danceable flourishes.
The big-bottom rhythm of "On Directing" and its understated refrain -- "Go steady with me" -- seemed in this context like brilliant teenage bait, as did Tegan's insistence that, if they could retitle songs they'd already released, they'd name the skittering "Ocean" for Facebook. Their mix of pop smarts and adult cleverness -- for the parents, a Kraftwerk joke, followed by the irrepressible hum-along "Alligator" for their kids -- sated the crowd, who were mostly here for Paramore.
And, in the end, who could blame them?
1. Misery Business
2. Born For This
4. Feeling Sorry
5. That's What You Get
9. The Only Exception
10. When It Rains
11. Where The Lines Overlap
12. Misguided Ghosts
14. Looking Up
15. My Heart
16. Let The Flames Begin
17. Brick By Boring Brick