Few bands have recovered from the kind of turmoil that engulfed Paramore following the release of its third album, the excellent Brand New Eyes, and led to an acrimonious split with founding members Josh and Zac Farro, accusations of being a record label creation and an air-clearing MTV special–singer Hayley Williams even conceded from the stage Wednesday night that the band is “a bit of a soap opera.” And yet, Paramore didn’t just survive–Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York have thrived, producing some of their best music in 2013 on a sprawling, genre-hopping self-titled LP that includes the Go-Go’s-worthy single-of-the-year candidate “Still Into You“. In this context, it was no surprise that the Toronto stop of the band’s Self-Titled Tour took on an unusually celebratory feel, complete with plenty of singalongs, a youth choir from the Etobicoke School of the Arts on “It Ain’t Fun” and a show-closing shower of balloons and confetti.
Opener “Grow Up”, perhaps a thinly veiled kiss-off to former bandmates, set the tone for the night as the trio, joined by three touring members (including former Underøath drummer Aaron Gillespie), rarely let the foot off the gas pedal during a 105-minute set that covered highlights from all four full-lengths as well as “Decode”, the band’s Grammy-nominated contribution to the Twilight soundtrack, and non-LP single “In the Mourning”. The latter, which featured a snippet from Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, suggested that Williams could probably deliver a fine album of country-folk ballads in the unlikely event she ever decided to take her music in that direction. Performing over half of their latest album, Paramore sounded like the arena rock band it always seemed destined to be on the Air Canada Centre stage, and its fans never shied away from emulating classic Big Rock Show moments by raising their cellphones during “Last Hope” and clapping in time at every opportunity.
While Davis, York and their touring sidemen capably and carefully reproduced the band’s studio arrangements–perhaps a bit too carefully, as there seemed to be little room for improvisation in the band’s set–the star of the show was unequivocally the fiery Williams, whose magnetic stage presence is easily the equal of her soaring, powerful voice. Now a frontperson of the first order, she borrowed a page from Freddie Mercury’s playbook to lead the audience in call-and-response chants before “That’s What You Get”, took a moment before “crushcrushcrush” to admonish those in attendance who were still sitting in their seats (perhaps exhausted by her boundless energy!), and invited a fan onstage for a pitch-perfect guest vocal on the last chorus of crowd-favourite “Misery Business”.
To see Paramore live in 2013 is to witness a band that has survived potentially career-derailing tensions to re-emerge stronger than ever, relishing every moment of its time in the spotlight. “The more music that you love, the happier you’ll be. Don’t be close-minded,” said Hayley Williams midway through Wednesday’s concert. Those who still doubt Paramore would be well-served to heed that advice–and perhaps catch one of the remaining shows on the band’s Self-Titled Tour.
A very pregnant Lights also performed, taking the stage for a set of warmly received, polite post-Metric electro-pop, with early single “Drive My Soul” drawing the biggest cheers from a still-sparse ACC crowd. Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of Toronto’s public transportation system, I missed hellogoodbye’s opening set.
Fast in My Car
That’s What You Get
Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore
When It Rains
Brick by Boring Brick
Ain’t It Fun
The Only Exception
In the Mourning->Landslide->In the Mourning
Interlude: Moving On
Still Into You