It’s been six years since pop-punk icons turned new wave pop superstars Paramore last turned up on British soil. So it’s really not a shock to note the sky-high level of anticipation and excitement in and around the O2 Arena a good hour before the doors have even opened tonight.
Once everyone is inside, Bloc Party prove to be an inspired choice for support. The London quartet’s scattering post-punk has been a huge influence on Paramore’s recent output, as Hayley Williams admits, and songs from their debut album Silent Alarm, now rightly considered a modern classic, have aged like the finest of wines. Banquet, This Modern Love and, of course, Helicopter are magnificent, while new song High Life shows there is plenty more to Kele Okereke's band than mere nostalgia.
If not needing to rely on nostalgia is true of Bloc Party, then you can multiply that fact by ten for Paramore. Their recent album This is Why might just be the most accomplished of their career, a fact they hammer home by opening the show with two tracks from it, You First and The News, both of which sound amazing and are lapped up by an ecstatic crowd. Their pivot from fizzy, emo punk to classy, groove-fuelled alt-pop in the vein of Talking Heads and New Order suits them brilliantly, and it also appears to make them play classic material that they have, in their words, “reclaimed” (such as That’s What You Get) with a whole new level of maturity.
Maturity can be a dirty word in alternative circles, but Paramore have managed to balance their new influences without losing the core of what made them connect with so many people in the first place. Specifically, there are three things that make the Tennessee crew continue to stand out from their peers. Firstly, the infectious energy of the band; you’re unlikely to witness a more kinetic and vibrant live act in an arena. From the moment they step out, the bodies of all seven people on stage bounce, move and career around in a joyous manner.
Secondly, the songs. Paramore have amassed an incredible back catalogue, hence why their fans are seemingly so happy to indulge in any of their musical flights of fancy. Hard Times is a slinky pop bop of outrageous quality, The Only Exception sways and melts with delicate beauty, Ain’t It Fun is a strutting, jerking banger and show closer This Is Why is a seductive dubby attack. Wherever you look, Paramore have the biggest of tunes.
The third, and undoubtably most important reason, is the sheer star power of Hayley Williams. Everything about Paramore’s vocalist is just perfect; she’s engaging, energetic, relatable, honest, has a world class voice and clearly has the kind of connection with her fanbase that cannot be faked or forced. When she handpicks three members of the audience to come up and sing the second half of a riotous Misery Business it doesn’t feel like a “bit”; Williams genuinely looks as stoked to be jumping around with her fans as her fans do to be onstage with their idol, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the moment with them.
There won’t have been a more heartwarming, fun, enthralling and intoxicating arena show being put on anywhere on the planet than the one we witnessed tonight. Absolutely exceptional. Now please don’t make us wait six more years for the next one.