A little context before I give you my critique; My favorite Paramore record is their 2013 self-titled outing. It was the perfect balance between what Paramore was – a pillar of the emo-punk craze of the mid 2000’s – and could be – hit after hit of carefully performed and well-crafted songs. The production was hard to beat with Justin Meldal-Johnsen producing (NIN, Beck, M83) and Ilan Rubin on drums (NIN, AVA) simply killing on every track. Throw in Taylor York on guitar, Jeremy Davis on bass then top it all off with Haley William’s soaring vocals and what do you have? A killer record. Paramore or not, that record is solid.
So when “Hard times”, the first single off their latest record “After Laughter” rolled out earlier this year, I was hooked. I didn’t bitch and whine about it being “nothing like the old Paramore”. I was open for anything. The song was solid and production was inspiring. Yes, the new-wave, 80’s aesthetic is a little played (the 90’s are in now, didn’t you hear?) but Paramore did an amazing job delivering. Huzzah!
Then I bought the record.
It’s front loaded. My God was it front loaded. Only three songs came close to the perfection that was the last record. But it happens. Catching lightning twice is near impossible. I will never fault a band for trying something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I still listen to “After Laughter” – the three songs I like – and enjoy it. As I do with anything I’m a fan of, I dig. I look and ingest any trivial information I can find in hopes to elevate my appreciation.
…That’s when my wife shows me this FADER interview with Haley Williams about Paramore : http://www.thefader.com/…/paramore-hayley-williams-cover-st…
I couldn’t help but feel a little put off. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. We all have bad days, we don’t know what people are going through. This shouldn’t affect my appreciation of the band. I bought 2 tickets via the bands fan club pre-sale. My wife and I had never seen Paramore live, and we figured now was the time. Prepped, dressed in black leather coats and jeans, we bolted to the venue ready for a night of good music.
Cut to last night at the St-Denis theatre.
(First off, WHY??? Why would you do that?)
Stage production? Sublime. As someone who brought 3D video projection on tour with Kamakazi, I appreciated the effort of trying to create a visual masterpiece. This is what bands need to keep doing – stepping up their theatrical effort, coupled with inspired musical performances.
The Sound? Unless you were in the first three rows, the sound was abysmal. I’ve paid 10$ for a bar show that had better sound. They had the gear (AVID console, state of the art sound system) but for some reason couldn’t make it work. I blame the sound techs, not the band.
Now the sad part; the band…or should I say; Haley Williams and The Paramores. Make no mistake, this was her show. She leads the pack and there is no mistaking her role. Each musician is talented; you clearly see years of experience on the road. However, what I didn’t see was chemistry. When I hear “Misery Business”, “That’s What You Get” or “Daydreamer”, I imagine a band letting it all out. I imagine them sharing the power and connecting with the crowd. What I saw were a couple dudes making sure to not overshadow the lead singer. I know she’s the star. I know she is who we are supposed to care about but give the band some credit. Those Paramore records work because it’s a mix – not a solo effort.
Hayley, who was hitting notes more than singing them (I blame the sound guy, maybe she was singing), did manage to keep everyone on their feet – but something felt off. For a charismatic front woman, it took her more than a handful of songs before even addressing the crowd. When she finally did, I felt like she was reciting the lines from her FADER interview verbatim. For someone who told the crowd to wear out their dancing shoes, her many bleak monologues on hopelessness felt counter-productive. I’ve played shows where you feel “pas d’dans”. We’re human, it happens. That’s what I saw on stage last night. I hope Toronto has a better time.
The high-point of the concert was the pre-encore closer, “Misery Business”. Haley (as she does every night on this tour) chose a member of the audience to close the song with her. Turns out Christ-ynnnne, the lucky fan, was celebrating her birthday (I’d like some ID for proof – it’s always someone’s birthday!). That made for a genuine moment, the only moment in the 18-song set that felt sincere. When she asked the crowd to toast to the last ten years of Paramore, one fan yelled “and to ten more!”
It seemed like Haley wanted to blurt out “Dear God, no”.
To make sure I wasn’t being a little bitch and cynical, I asked fellow fans who have seen their Warped Tour performances and other Montreal concerts to research, to see if I in fact was missing something. The consensus was the same; c’est pu comme dans l’temps. Damn it, why couldn’t I’ve seen them when I thought white belts with studs and emo bangs were the shit. My loss.
As I walked out afterwards, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Given all the information I had beforehand that could’ve tainted my appreciation of Haley and the Paramores, I went into that theater wanting them to be as great as the record I loved. I wanted to love the show, but what I saw was a missed opportunity. I’m sure the die-hards would chastise me for being overly critical of their heroine, but just like I can criticize my idols (Feldman and the Blink 182s) when they phone it in, I chose not to be a rose-colored boy for this review.
See what I did there.