Back in the UK after five years to tour with their sixth album, This Is Why, the Nashville trio Paramore put on an energetic yet cosy show at the Cardiff International Arena.
Paramore – Cardiff International Arena
15 April 2023
Words: Gabriella Bosticco
Clad in a suit jacket and miniskirt, Hayley Williams starts the set with high energy that she maintains throughout. The charismatic frontwoman belts out opener You First while jumping and high kicking around the stage in a way that would throw off a lesser singer.
Anyone confused by their new album can surely see the vision once it’s played live, amongst their other music. The second new song, The News, makes it clear that there’s nothing softer about the alt-rock direction they’ve taken, with Taylor York’s guitar as strong as ever.
As a band that has changed their sound so much on their most recent albums, you might expect them to move away from their emo roots, but the setlist represents each of their albums fairly evenly. The next pair of songs are old favourites Playing God, and That’s What You Get. Williams makes frequent references to the band growing up with their audience, and it’s clear that their sound has simply grown with them; while they’re no longer emo teenagers, they’re adults navigating a post-pandemic world. Despite this shift, there’s an overarching feeling of angst and raw emotion that ties their discography together.
Their setup is a bit simpler than the giant circular moving screen that they had behind them last time they toured the UK, but the rhombic screen behind them showing fun, high-contrast visuals is very suited to the branding of the This Is Why era. It accents the run of bouncy numbers Running Out Of Time, Hard Times (featuring a snippet of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass), Caught In The Middle and Ain’t it Fun, really testing the audience’s stamina.
This energy drops a little for new ballad Liar, and many people take advantage of this to take a drink break. Their attention is regained with Crystal Clear from Williams’ solo album Petals For Armor. With deep blue visuals and atmospheric, layered sound, it’s hard to remember that this is all taking place in the CIA.
The band’s love for each other is apparent, and the inclusion of music from their ventures outside Paramore just reinforces this. Drummer Zac Farro’s band HalfNoise is also represented with the unreleased song Baby which debuted in Dublin earlier in the week. When Williams takes the microphone back, she says, “That’s my oldest best friend right there,” with a wide, proud smile.
Speaking to the crowd between songs, Williams talks so conversationally that it’s like catching up with an old friend. It feels like she really means it when she tells the audience, “Take a look at your family tonight”, reminding them to take care of each other. With an audience of this size, this sense of closeness is truly impressive.
This intimacy also means that when she pauses her solo cover of Adrianne Lenker’s What Can You Say to adjust the volume in her earpieces, the audience cheers in encouragement. After several false starts, taking out her earpieces entirely, Williams asks if she can continue regardless of key and once again receives encouraging cheers. She can’t help but laugh when the audience raises their phone lights, grinning, “You guys are so fucking sweet to me, and I don’t deserve it.” Her charisma and sense of humour make it feel less like a hiccup and more like a fun little mid-show jam interlude.
Any doubts that the audience may have in Williams’ ability are wiped out in the next few songs. This includes All I Wanted, which never used to be played live but has been added to the regular roster following a TikTok trend attempting (and often failing) to hit the impressive notes that Williams reaches. Farro’s work on the drums is also particularly impressive here and earns a shout-out from Williams at the end of the show.
The band continue their tradition of bringing a fan up on stage for the final chorus of Misery Business, choosing two tonight. When one of the chosen fans falls over with excitement, Williams doesn’t hesitate to throw herself over backwards in solidarity.
Before they return for the encore, a film of behind-the-scenes clips plays, showing intimate shots of the band and even Williams’ dog, Alf. They finish with the titular track of This Is Why, a lively end to a dynamic show.
With stage presence and fan loyalty like this, it’s no wonder that tickets are few and far between for the rest of their UK tour.