Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Wearing kneepads and Muay Thai shorts, with sweat dripping off the tips of her SLC Punk-blue hair, it was clear that Paramore's Hayley Williams is no longer the perceived lightweight from the Vans Warped Tour. After last year's Self-Titled tour, and years of unfair criticism (amplified by the Farro brothers' departure in 2010), Paramore is now her band. There's nothing left to prove, and after 10 years, Paramore has seriously grown up–the teenybopper label dropped like baby fat in favor of Hayley Williams becoming a pop icon.
"We made it to double digits guys," she calmly stated to thousands of crazed fans at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine; connecting directly with the audience by smiling at "familiar faces" as if they were all in the same minivan together, with her dad in the driver's seat. Those same fans that discovered Paramore through "Misery Business" in 2007, have grown up alongside Williams, who now seems to be feeling the wear-and-tear on her body–like an aging prizefighter–except she's only 25: "Getting old," she told the crowd, "it's getting harder to headbang, but that's okay, that's why I have knee pads." And like any proper fighter, she isn't one complain or show her bruises. Williams' neck and back are constantly in pain, and having been on the road nonstop since October, you can bet her vocal chords are strained. But none of it showed on the Irvine stop of the 44-date Monumentour with Fall Out Boy–it never does with Williams. She's a born performer, like Freddie Mercury or Elvis before her.
After alt-rockers New Politics finished their set, a giant LED screen created a massive cloud of purple haze as Paramore began to take the stage. Aaron Gillespie's drums signaled the first song, "Still Into You," which cleared the purple noise to reveal Williams, holding a red microphone and gliding into focus with her usual spunky-hip-hop strut. Without stopping, Paramore went right into the second song, "That's What You Get," which included a cannon-fire of confetti that scattered across the pit, as Williams led the crowd into a unified pogoing session. "We love sweating balls and playing fast songs," she told the crowd, which would foreshadow the booming guitar intro on "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic," which rattled with lightening-stage-effects and a relentless headbanging performance by Williams, who never seemed to slow down–even while running across the stage and dodging Jeremy Davis' flying kicks like a trained kickboxer.
For the calmer halfway point of the set, an emerald glow engulfed the stage for "Decode," which got the loudest reaction from any of the 14 songs they played. Everybody was singing along with Williams, who finally stood still at the center of the stage–a tiny silhouette against a wall of blinking green lights–which allowed her voice to become the focus. It created an eerie feeling amongst the OC faithful; most of whom grew up with Paramore and the Twilight films.
"It's nice to meet you, we should do this more often," said Williams, taking a break after "Decode" to make some new friends. For the seventh song of the hour-long set, Paramore played a ballad, "Only the Exception," which resulted in cell-phones lighting up the night's sky like electric-fireflies. Williams stood over the crowd and allowed her voice to float across the amphitheater; breathing nicely over the soft acoustic echoes of Taylor York's guitar.
"Last Hope," which ended up being the calm before the storm, had Williams sitting behind a keyboard: "Gonna' let it happen," lyrics rooted in the darkest moment for Paramore back in 2010, during the nasty departure of the Farro brothers. The song led to a triumphant climax (life imitating art), a symbol of how her passion for music allowed Williams to get through it all; which is the opiate the draws people into Paramore's endless array of intoxicating anthems from the heart. Williams relates to her fans, and that's why Paramore works.
The set was highlighted by a 10-minute spiritual journey through "Let the Flames Begin" and its sequel, "Part II," a brooding and operatic moment that made the impending Fall Out Boy performance seem almost comical. It began with an explosion of dark-red lights; creating a somber aesthetic after "Misery Business," which they had just finished playing. Williams' shadow looked menacing over the boiling-red glow. "Oh glory," she sang, preparing the crowd for the pounding chorus and purposeful guitar fade-out that transitioned into Williams falling to her knees, laying face-first on the stage. With her arms stretching out in front of her, motionless, pounding white lights destroyed the red darkness of "Let the Flames Begin," for "Part II," which created a starry effect behind Williams who sang, "I'm nothing but a shadow in the night," right into the echoing post-punk guitar intro of "Part II." The symbolic movement from darkness into light reached its climax when the curtains fell to unveil seven rows of glimmering disco balls–48 strob lights that sprayed over Williams like a waterfall of falling stars from the heavens.
For the closer, Paramore decided to lift some spirits with "Ain't It Fun." "We're gonna' take you to church!" said Williams, which seemed odd, as we'd already been there during "Part II." But Williams seemed to have fun with the song, allowing her vocals to groove deeper into her funk and gospel roots from Franklin, Tennessee. On the final chorus of "Ain't It Fun," a barrage of balloons and confetti covered the amphitheater as Paramore walked off the stage. No encore was necessary.
"It's not that I don't feel the pain, it's just that I'm not afraid of hurting anymore," lyrics from "Last Hope," which reflect the current state of Paramore and their spirited lead-singer, Hayley Williams, who has turned optimism into her band's mantra to keep moving forward. By the time Fall Out Boy was set to take the stage, we'd already drained our well of adrenaline. Watching Williams bounce all over the stage is cardio for the onlooker, who can't help but imitate her calisthenics on the stage. The only thing that can follow Paramore is an exploding star or a shift in the cosmos–not Fall Out Boy. For some of us, the Monumentour was just a continuation of the Self-Titled tour, and that's the truth.
1. "Still Into You"
2. "That's What You Get"
3. "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic"
7. "The Only Exception"
8. "Last Hope"
9. "Brick by Boring Brick"
10. "Misery Business"
11. "Let the Flames Begin"
12. "Part II"
14. "Ain't It Fun"