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PARAMORE with Bleachers // Tour Four 2018
February 11th, 2018
There’s a dark cloud hanging over Brisbane as we snake our way down through the QUT Gardens Point campus and around to the Riverstage for tonight’s Paramore tour stop.
With our friend Dana in tow, we remark at the youthful exuberance on display: throngs of chattering tweens with parental chaperones, tattie-bro adults adorned in the minimum clothes possible for maximum sweat, curious tourists and passers-by. It’s clear that people are here for a good time, and as we reach the line’s bottom, receive our guest passes from the box office and wait for the line to dissipate, we’re sure that nothing could dampen the attending spirits this evening. Well, about that…
Not long after the venue gates open, heaven’s gates decide to do the same, and the sky turns an ominous shade of pissed-off grey-black before literally dumping on everyone. We quickly walk over to an under-cover ledge before shit turns mildly apocalyptic, and it isn’t long until we’re crammed in with a few hundred other patrons, watching as the venue is evacuated, with streams of people running frantically down the gate ramp, and pouring rain and fierce winds turning the Riverstage into a cyclonic backdrop. We then spend the next two and a half hours in what I like to call ‘gig purgatory’: you don’t want to leave, because as they say, the show must go on, but also, you’re already there, so you might as well ride it out.
As we wait to hear if the show has been confirmed as cancelled, we take stock of our surrounds. Some idle observations: pungent, close-quarters aromas; underage girls at the helm of the rumour mill; “Oh my god, did you hear the stage was struck by lightning?”; average attire could mostly be described as ‘Bratz-dolls-meets-extras-from-The Craft’ chic; visually alluring lightning on show, complete with booming thunder; dismay at the venue’s policy on banning selfie sticks; multiple people refreshing every single form of social media for desperate news; some bloke furiously debating the merits of the first ten minutes of Mean Girls; several attempts at acapella versions of Paramore songs that succeed to varying degrees.
Around seven thirty in the evening (15 minutes before the headliners were meant to start their original set), the storm relents, and the venue bravely decides to let people back in. We join the line, but it’s slow going, as safety concerns are clearly paramount. Regrettably, this means that we must listen to tonight’s openers Bleachers from, well, the bleachers outside. Frontman and multi-instrumentalist Jack Antonoff leads the New Yorker group through a short but rousing set, pulling from 2017’s Gone Now and 2014’s Strange Desire. From our position in the labyrinthian line, we listen as the sounds of singles like I Wanna Get Better and Rollercoaster fire the enthusiastic crowd up, ringing in our ears like a crackhead Springsteen passed through a Sub Pop records filter.
After making it through the security choke check point, Dana and I make moves to the beer tent, and are pleasantly surprised by a lack of lines while also dismayed at the predictably obscene price gauging. Parking ourselves on the damp green, we wet whistles and listen as the sounds of TLC’s No Scrubs plays over the PA. With tonight’s show being delayed by a few hours, the stage crew are doing an admirable effort in ramping up the production and keeping things moving.
That’s what Williams is; a human conductor of pure electricity, cracking and sparking across the stage with boundless energy.
As the stage lights dim, and the crowd goes ape-shit at the prospect of finally seeing the show they so nearly missed, we’re treated to brief snippets of a Blondie instrumental before the stage explodes in a sea of spasmodic colours. Launching into lead single and album opener Hard Times from last year’s fantastic After Laughter, Paramore have brought out the big guns tonight with a full big-band experience. Playing with touring members as a seven-piece (yes, seven), the band’s core stand front and centre, with guitarist Taylor York, original drummer Zac Farro, and the pocket dynamo that is indominable front-woman Hayley Williams. There’s a line in a verse off Hard Times that goes, “You hit me with lightning!/Maybe I’ll come alive”—and apart from that one poor dude in Brisbane who took a shower at the wrong time, that’s exactly what Williams is; a human conductor of pure electricity, cracking and sparking across the stage with boundless energy.
The band move into tracks from previous records, with the choruses of Ignorance and Still Into You sounding positively triumphant in the open-air stadium. But it’s new tracks like the melodic, Fleetwood Mac-inspired Forgiveness and the shimmering, self-deprecating pop of Fake Happy which show the true dynamic potential of Paramore. As Williams remarks at one point, the band have been playing together since high school, across fourteen years, five albums and countless world tours. Many people here tonight have grown up listening to Paramore, and in turn, Paramore have grown up with them.
Older cuts like That’s What You Get from 2007’s smash-hit Riot! and I Caught Myself from the glitter-vamp Twilight soundtrack get roaring applause from the crowd, with phone-lit arms outstretched in the mosh, and couples swaying and bobbing together at the back of the green. Williams implores everyone to put on their (no doubt muddy) dancing shoes, before zipping into renditions of Told You So and Idle Worship. Before launching into fan-favourite Misery Business, Williams describes how the lyrics of the song don’t necessarily reflect her current feelings about change, and she declares that the band will take the power back and use the song tonight for positive affirmation. It’s a powerful message for a lot of young women in the crowd tonight; once a promiscuous man-eater, not always a promiscuous man-eater. And it’s fitting for a band like Paramore, who have shed different skins throughout their entire career, ranging from Christian post-hardcore, to anthemic pop-punk, moody alt-rock, smatterings of No Doubt grunge/ska, and now, blissful 80’s power-pop. Human beings aren’t static creatures, and change is inevitable.
The band close with the rousing Ain’t It Fun from their self-titled record, lit against the circular target backdrop, awash in kaleidoscopic colours and jagged, Warhol pop-art shapes. Even with the show delayed, the band’s absence is short-lived, and they quickly return for an encore, delivering a bottom-end heavy Grow Up and letting Farro take the mic for a funky cover of French Class, from his other project HalfNoise. Wrapping up with the fun, summer vibes of Rose-Coloured Boy, the band are bathed in purple hues as the crowd gets in one final boogie, singing back the words loud enough that Williams can easily hold the microphone out and smile. Brisbane may have braved some extreme weather tonight, but Paramore made sure that Tour Four was well worth the trouble.