If we had to describe Tom Doyle, we probably would come up with a better description of him than “the fastest phone user in the world”. But he was quick enough to snag a ticket for Paramore’s super-exclusive sold-out-in-seconds micro-show at the Highbury Garage, where the band (who let’s be honest, normally play to thousands) showcased their 2013 material – and some old classics – to a crowd of less than 600 people.
Six Things we learned when we saw Paramore play the Highbury Garage:
1) Security at The Garage is like Guantanamo Bay tonight, photo IDs required by all and if your name ain’t on the list you ain’t coming in. Calm down lads, this isn’t Movida. There have been kids queueing since 1am but once we step inside the venue it bizarrely doesn’t actually feel that full – it all adds to the intimate atmosphere though of a gig by a band who are more used to packing arenas all over the world. Ginormous band is ginormous.
2) The shriek as the band bound onstage is deafening and there is a noticeable female heavy slant to the audience tonight (though there are a smattering of m0sh bros kicking about proving that no matter how much of a badass you think you are, big choruses will eventually get in your head). That proliferation of XX chromosomes in the crowd is no small part due to the fact that Hayley Williams is the idol for young female rock fans globally. While she herself is keen to emphasize onstage how much Paramore is a collective effort (and more on that later), Williams is an indisputable star. She is Siouxsie Sioux, she is Beyonce Knowles, she is the smiling girl next door exuding sheer joy in music from every pore. Her performance is absolutely fucking electric tonight, powerful, sexy, playful and practically note perfect – if I was the parent of a teenage girl then I would be more than happy for Williams to be my daughter’s role model and that, more than almost anything, says an enormous amount.
3) The setlist tonight is much as you’d expect, the band kick off with recent single ‘Now’ which stands up well against tracks like the exceptional ‘That’s What You Get’ and better-than-you-think-it-is ‘Decode’. Elsewhere, ‘Pressure’ is a pleasing nod to the old skool with the gold-plated banger that is ‘Crushcrushcrush’ the only glaring omission. A girl-and-guitar reworking of Alt-J’s ‘Matilda’ offers an insight into the influences behind the bands new album before ‘Still Into You’ takes the sodding roof off with its brilliant syncopated pop stylings.
Watch a whole load of fan-shot videos of Paramore’s Highbury Garage set:
4) A lot of boring people bang on about pop-punk bands not having access to exceptional musicianship. Just because you don’t play a million notes a second does not make you shit, and both bassist Jeremy Davis and stand in drummer Ilan Rubin turn in great sets tonight, tight as anything and with no small deal of technical complexity.
5) It is more than apparent that Paramore are a band who have a great affinity with their fans, those camped outside the venue in the wee hours were apparently brought warm coffees and pastries to keep spirits up in the unseasonally cold weather. When Williams fires into a mid set speech about recent mixed reviews of their forthcoming record and the fact that Rolling Stone recently referred to her as an “emo-metal queen” she stresses that it is the fans opinions that really count, singling out members of the audience tonight who they recognise from their earliest days touring the UK. It’s a lovely touch and one which a lot of bands could learn a deal from.
6) The other gripe from camp Paramore that Williams’ vociferously tries to set straight tonight is the idea that she is essentially a female popstar surrounded by a more or less interchangeable backing band. Not so, she claims, the other members of the band are as integral as her. It is a shame then that three of the performers on stage tonight (drummer, keys and second guitar) are dressed in black, hidden in the shadows and not seemingly given the “full band status”, and the three main protagonists are. You suspect that this is a tactic which will work better in the stadiums that the band allude that they will be filling in the UK before the year is out, but in a setting like this it is somewhat odd. It is a packaging decision that will leave them feeling like a pop act rather than the pop-punk band that they once were, but whether that really matters or not is debatable. What is not in debate is that on tonight’s evidence Paramore are about to give everyone else on the live circuit a run for their money.
Paramore @ Highbury Garage setlist:
That’s What You Get
Born for This
For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic
In the Mourning
The Only Exception
Let the Flames Begin
Brick by Boring Brick
Matilda (Alt-J cover)
Still Into You