The opening date of Paramore's Spring tour was proof positive of why this band continue to win over new admirers, night after night: The music was poppy, punk-y (of the fresh-scrubbed suburban variety), and loaded with more energy than a supercollider. It's the sort of rock'n'roll that hits teenagers the hardest, but sneaks up on the older generations when they're least expecting it.
Monday night at Knoxville, TN's Civic Coliseum, Paramore ripped through a 17-song set heavy on tracks from their latest release, Brand New Eyes, which SPIN picked as one of the best albums of 2009. Playing to over 6,000 rabid fans, the quintet rocked with vigor, precision, and, above all, a youthful exuberance.
Dressed in a bright yellow sleeveless T-shirt that read "Security," leopard print pants, and black sneakers, singer Hayley Williams opened the show bouncing around the stage like a spring flung from a machine. Both Williams and the rest of the group -- guitarists Josh Farro and Taylor York, drummer Zac Farro, and bassist Jeremy Davis -- seemed as if they'd been caged up in a tour bus a little too long -- after all, they just returned from an exhaustive tour of Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The entire 75-minute set (preceded by short opening gigs from Relient K and fun.) was tight and no-nonsense. It was free of gimmicks and technological frills beyond a standard light set up. In fact, technology seemed to play against the band. Williams had problems with her in-ear monitor and a faulty microphone, and, eventually, she had to take a break to be re-wired by "Travis the monitor guy."
Yet, the vibe was never less than positive. "I'm feeling a lot of love in the room and I want to sing about it, so this is a love song," said Williams before Brand New Eyes' "The Only Exception," an acoustic ballad about discovering your emotions, a departure from usual Paramore fare of angsty lyrics about broken hearts and heated battles with friends. But there was plenty of the latter, too: On "Brick by Boring Brick," a anthemic and catchy rocker showing musical maturity in its multiple movements, saw Williams spitting about the a fairytale dream gone wrong.
On "Ignorance" -- a song "about how I've felt judged, singled out, and betrayed," Williams told SPIN -- she crooned over sinister nu-metal guitars: "Where's your gavel? Your jury? What's my offense this time? Ignorance is your new best friend!" On "Playing God," she took a similar stance: "You don't deserve a point of view if the only thing you see is you!"
It's heavy stuff -- and it's shooting Paramore straight to superstardom. Last night's evidence: "If you've been to a Paramore show before, clap your hands," Williams asked, and was met by hearty applause. "Now clap if this is your first Paramore show," she added. The response in the second category was overwhelming. "Welcome to the family," smiled the fire-haired singer.