Photos by Pooja Pasupula .
I’ve always made a distinction between artists: there are singers, and there are performers. Like the whole “not every rectangle is a square” line, not every performer is a singer. Going into the Ovens Auditorium, I expected Paramore to be performers: give you a good show, a lot of jumping and screaming, but lacking vocally. I set the bar way too low. I assumed that Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams would jump around on stage, rock out a bit; maybe there would be a song or two from the old albums, but I couldn’t imagine the synthesis of both new and old sound, especially after listening to the vast difference between “RIOT!” (2007) and “After Laughter” (2017). “RIOT!” was what came to mind when I thought of Paramore: big, loud and pop punk galore. “After Laughter” is on a completely different playing field; still big and loud, but now upbeat and new wave power punk.
What I experienced was much better than anything I could have ever imagined. Hayley Williams was even more energetic and charismatic than what I could have thought. Paramore brought a perfect blend of their new and old music, honoring the fans that had been around for a few years while still giving “After Laughter” fans an unparalleled show, highlighting their new music with bright energetic video projections. As for energy, it was so apparent that the band loved what they were doing, and although it had been over a decade since the band’s formation it wasn’t reflected in Williams’ energy. She leaped, kicked and incorporated audience members without any falter in her voice.
The audience was composed of fans who had followed the band from the beginning and were now bringing their own children to see the band that had altered their life. The older fans were surrounded by teenage versions of themselves that look up to William’s energetic compassion, teaching them to view the world through a radically different lens. There was a young fan seated in front of me, I’m assuming she was around 13 or 15, accompanied by her mother and father. She was blessed that the three surrounding seats next to her were open. She danced and sang along with every song, lifting her hands and giving her own performance. What was beautiful about her was that you could visibly see how much Paramore meant to her, how the words in “Hate to See Your Heart Break” and “26” impacted her, and tears streamed down her face. Standing next to her was her father. As the night progressed it was increasingly apparent to him why his daughter loved the band so much; slowly his hands went from being sternly crossed in front of him to dropping to his side and swaying to the music, all of which was captured by a grinning mother.
The night started and ended with a message of compassion. Opening artist Best Coast’s lead singer Bethany Cosentino left the stage with a message, “Be kind and loving and not hateful.” This is a message that would later be mirrored by Williams, “Your choices matter. The way you treat people and empathy matters.” Williams brought a hopeful outlook to a country facing the aftermath of two hurricanes, which actually caused the bands to postpone a few of the Tour Two dates.
Leaving the Ovens Auditorium I was buzzing, Paramore had completely proven me wrong; they were so much more than just a band, but genuine artists that cared about their fans and the city that they had resided in for the past four days. Williams thanked the city, giving shoutouts to the Trader Joe’s employee that recommended a drink to her, gushing about the beautiful city that Charlotte was and showing care as she wished everyone a safe journey home. Including the fans in her closing statements to the tour members that were on stage, she left a message that “the individuals coming together to form something much more important” was what formed Paramore.