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21st April 2023

Live review: Paramore @ AO Arena, Manchester

Paramore return to Manchester at the top of their game, playing a career-spanning set to a sold-out crowd.
Live review: Paramore @ AO Arena, Manchester
Photo: Paramore – Sven-Sebastian Sajak @ Wikimedia Commons

American pop-rock trio Paramore brought their first world tour in five years to the UK, in support of latest release This is Why.

Support came from singer-songwriter Rozi Plain, who warmed up the crowd with her folk-rock sensibilities at the AO Arena. She was followed by Bloc Party, whom Paramore cited as an influence on their music in the early days. Led by Kele Okereke, Bloc Party have been a staple of the UK indie-rock scene for two decades, with hits like ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helicopter’ bound to crop up at 42s and Venue. Like a well-oiled machine, the band blasted through their seven-song support slot, hyping the crowd up in preparation for the headline act.

Preceding their set with a pre-recorded spoken-word piece ‘Note To Self’, Paramore arrive promptly onstage at 9pm, playing a career spanning-set, relying mainly on their superb sixth album This is Why released just two months prior. Fans had eagerly learned the words, as the band kickstarted their set with recent singles ‘You First’ and ‘The News’, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

After a five-year hiatus, Paramore have returned at the peak of their powers. From the fist-pumping ‘That’s What You Get’ to the defiant ‘Playing God’, Paramore have the audience in the palm of their hand. This is demonstrated again when frontwoman Hayley Williams stages a vocal warm-up with the crowd in between songs.

From the angsty pop-punk of Riot! to the kaleidoscopic art-pop of After Laughter, Paramore’s show was cathartic, with equal opportunity to mosh and dance. With each album, Paramore have cultivated an ever-expanding and diverse fanbase. The vibrant ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Rose-Coloured Boy’ from After Laughter go down a storm along with Grammy-winning single ‘Ain’t It Fun’, and the sense of joy in the room is palpable. The former offers a moment of escapism, allowing the audience to leave their problems at the door.

Hayley Williams is a force to reckoned with – with her signature flame-coloured hair in a 60s bouffant and a chunky studded belt, she brought the glam to rock. When Hayley belts out the chorus of ‘All I Wanted’, with its infamous long note, you can hear a pin drop. Her impressive range cements her easily as one of the best current rock vocalists.

Guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro, too, are at the top of their game. Their complex riffs and drumming are faultless, as they expertly increase the tempo in the rockier numbers. They are joined by an additional four touring musicians Joey Howard (bass, backing vocals), Logan MacKenzie (keyboards and guitar), Joseph Mullen (percussion), and Brian Robert Jones (guitar, backing vocals), elevating the instrumentals and overall atmosphere of the show.

Hayley lets out a scream at the start of ‘Running Out of Time’, a track from This is Why that has quickly become a fan-favourite, and the audience yell the words right back. “This one’s for all the vampires!” she declares before performing ‘Decode’, Paramore’s contribution to the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga, and my personal introduction to the band.

Previous rifts between band members seem to be long-forgotten, as the mic is passed to Hayley for a performance of her solo single ‘Crystal Clear’, and later to Zac, who gives an acoustic rendition of ‘Baby’, a track from his DIY project HalfNoise. Manchester is also treated to a rare acoustic rendition of ‘Misguided Ghosts’ from Brand New Eyes, a track the band have not performed in the UK since 2010.

When we get to ‘Misery Business’, Hayley’s at her head-banging best, jumping around the stage. Despite being one of Paramore’s most recognisable tunes, ‘Misery Business’ found itself cancelled and chastised for its slut-shaming lyric “Once a whore / You’re nothing more.” In its defence, the song was written by a teenage Williams. That song has since been reclaimed, with Williams regularly inviting young female artists (Billie Eilish at Coachella!) and fans onstage to sing its massive final verse and chorus. The song has been transformed into a celebration of women and its beautiful to witness.

Tonight, three fans were welcomed to the AO Arena stage, one of which happened to be Jess Branney, lead singer of Chester three-piece Peaness. “I wish I was in a band called Peaness!”, Hayley laughs. The next day, Paramore tweet that they have indeed given the band a listen.

Paramore deliver the one-two punch of ‘The Only Exception’ and ‘This is Why’ in their encore. The latter is their energetic and anthemic comeback single and elicits one of the liveliest responses of the night, testament to the band’s ability to outdo themselves with each record they produce.

You can buy tickets to the remaining tour dates for Paramore here.

Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor

Head Music Editor @ The Mancunion. Freelance Music and Culture Writer @ DIY, The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, etc. Alt-rock connoisseur and Britpop aficionado. Twitter: @tayl0rsarah LinkedIn:

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