Paramore‘s After Laughter is one of the best albums of the year, but it also harbors an uncomfortable truth, which is that it has not carried through the mainstream pop success of its predecessor, the band’s 2013 self-titled album. This is despite After Laughter being Paramore’s most pop album yet—lead single “Hard Times” could have been a Tom Tom Club song, and subsequent singles like “Told You So” and “Fake Happy”also fit easily into modern pop’s fascination with the ’80s. Still, there is one place, at least, where After Laughter feels like the biggest album in America, and that is at the band’s current tour, which ripped through New York City earlier this week.
Five albums deep into its career, Paramore has plenty of material to pull from, but the setlist for their current live show favors pop: seven songs from the new album, three from the last one, and then big singles from the past like “Misery Business” and “That’s What You Get,” from when Paramore first announced themselves to the mainstream. There isn’t much done here to put these songs in a new context—instead, a 2017 Paramore concert impresses simply by stacking the hits on top of each other until the lights come up. Still, there are things that surprise.
My favorite part of the night, weirdly, was the band’s rendition of “26,” a delicate acoustic number from After Laughter that singer Hayley Williams performed alongside just a single guitarist. Paramore still puts on a proper, loud rock show, but the detour into relative quiet was, instead of being a signal to run to the bathroom, one of the show’s most cathartic moments, with the 6,000 or so people in attendance softly accenting Williams’ singing of the song’s chorus. There were other small revelations, too, like a long instrumental interlude during “Misery Business” in which Williams finds audience members to come up and sing along, but which bridged the gap between that era of the band and the current one. There is also a nearly perfect cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” in which Williams toys with the main chorus vocal, landing on something elongated and ethereal that fits the original but still feels fresh.
Nonetheless, the biggest moments here—”Still Into You,” “Ain’t It Fun,” etc.—are the best, and there’s not much else you want from a rock concert, now or in the future.