Show Review: Paramore, Paper Route, The Swellers at The Warfield 11/10/09

by Dakin Hardwick on November 11, 2009

This is what Paramore looked like a couple of days ago

This is what Paramore looked like a couple of days ago

Last month, I posted a review of the band Heart at The Warfield. In the review, I mention the band Paramore in a very positive light. In the comments, somebody posted this question:

Question: What is the importance of a band like Paramore? (Serious question — I’m 38 years old. :) )

When I wrote this review, it was expected I would have already written quite a fair amount about this band, and the kind reader would not have been confused. But, this show was moved from the beginning of the tour to the end of the tour, and I had yet to write a review of the new record, brand new eyes. Well, since this show has finally happened, I think it’s fair of me to, within discussion of this performance, to help describe why the band Paramore is truly important, and additionally, why a 38 year old Heart fan should know what his/her niece already understands.

So, I decide to show up a bit early to this show, primarily to get a good spot. The doors opened at 6:30, so I thought that arriving at 5:45 seemed reasonable. I was very much mistaken… By the time I arrived, the line stretched clear past the corner and up the block, practically in the Tenderloin. These fans are passionate fans, who braved one of the colder November days in recent memory to be up close and personal with one of their favorite bands. We all enter uniformly, and, instead of large amounts of people coming from behind to push to the front, everyone that came in was very considerate of each other. People moved to a spot that was comfortable and good for viewing, and the next person either came next to them, or behind. It was the kind of consideration that one rarely sees at a sold out rock show. (The original date sold out in a matter of minutes, and, although refunds were available, as far as it looked, every ticket stub I saw was for the original show, so I don’t think anyone changed their minds.)

The first band came on to the stage promptly at 7:30. They are known as The Swellers, a pop-punk band that shares a record label with Paramore. Their sound was very typical melodic punk rock, with hints of metal thrown in. Singer/Guitarist Nick Diener understood how to add some edge to the music by coloring it with some Eddie Van Halen-styled hammering, but I still felt that they fell just slightly short of what they could be. The songs were solid, well played, and hooky, but there wasn’t anything that I felt was especially unique about them. It seemed like the crowd agreed, with polite applause and rapt attention, bit little genuine energy. The most enthusiastic moment came when Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams came out to sing towards the end of the set. It probably the most interesting song, only because the introduction of female harmonies pushed them out of their comfort zone for a short bit. Again, they weren’t a bad band by any measure, they just need some more time to find an identity.

Surprisingly, the next band, Paper Route, more than made up for that. In fact, I was a bit familiar with the band, at least through the songs on their MySpace page and their amazing unauthorized remix of Kid Cudi’s Day N Night. I was expecting a set of moody, synth-driven emo, something in the Postal Service family. What we got was a glorious attack of percussive noise mixed with melody. There were two drum kits on stage, plus a third bass drum. For all the people missing drums, they had electric percussion to hit. Where on record the guitars are understated and mixed pretty far in the back, live they pulled out all of the effects peddles and powered through the set with an obscene amount of energy and ferocity.  Upon my research, I have found it difficult to deduce which member of the band does what, since everyone seemed to share duties, I will have to say that the gentleman that sang the majority of the vocals is one of my new favorite showmen. He pretended to be somewhat apathetic and “hipster,” but had too much energy to contain the joke, and evolved in to a nerdy guy that was really excited about all of his toys on stage.

Speaking of toys, in addition to all the drums and electronic gadgetry, we had some very creative use of the jingle bells, accordion, and theremin all throughout the set. They actually started to remind me of the first time I saw The Mars Volta, before they became they prog-punk beast they the evolved in to, and were merely a passionate experimental group that was having the time of their lives creating something very different from anything else. The sonic assault continued until they closing number, a piece called “Dance On Our Graves,” which was the only song recognizable from the records, and it was a beautiful ballad. The song was tender and heartfelt, and was the perfect catharsis for the intense performance that we had just witnessed.

One of the continuing themes of the evening was promptness. I really enjoy a good show where everything seems to be in good working order. Paper Route finished just before 9 PM, and Paramore hit the ground running at exactly 9:15!

Hayley and lead guitarist Josh Farro came on stage first, with Farro strumming some lovely minor-key chords while Hayley sang, and then the rest of the band came out and dove straight in to the current single, “Ignorance.” Just to prove how much faith they have in their material, they opted to play two more big singles: Twilight’s “I Caught Myself” and the FUSE heavy rotation video hit “That’s What You Get,” all performed before a real introduction was made.

At this point, Hayley says hello to the crowd, and says some very warm things about the venue, but also made it clear that she felt that some areas surrounding the venue made her feel a bit uncomfortable. It was strange remark, but it felt very genuine. Often times bands will feel the need to praise the town they are playing, no matter how they actually feel, but this band opted to merely tell the truth. It felt really good. In fact, the whole night seemed to be devoted to being as genuine as a band could be.

At first glance, Paramore looks like a singer’s project. The band stays in the background throughout the majority of the set, while the vocalist takes in the limelight. I was offended by this for a moment, until I took some time to really look at the players, and everyone on stage looked truly happy to be doing what they are doing. Other than Hayley, nobody is a showperson in this band. They don’t tell jokes, and although there is a little bit of synchronicity in the way Josh Farro, Taylor York, and Jeremy Davis move around on stage, these guys are up there to play music because they love playing music. And they do it very well.

The midway point in the set came at the end of the song “crushcrushcrush,” off the 2007 breakthrough record Riot! At this point, the show was already very intense, and the crowd was pogoing relentlessly, but when this song came on, I truly felt that the room was going to explode. The energy given off by the band was infectious, and there was nobody in the room that missed out on it.

After this song, I noticed security do something that may have annoyed a few people in the crowd, but made me very happy. They told people to put their cameras away. I have no issues with somebody bringing a camera to the show to take a few shots as a souvenir, but it does ruin the show when half the crowd is standing stoically, watching the entire event through the preview screen. It also can interfere with people’s ability to see that stage. I greatly respect the fact that the band and venue both understood this. It made the rest of an already enjoyable night even more enjoyable.

The rest of the main set was surprisingly evenly split amongst Paramore’s three full length releases, which made for a varied set that left fans content no matter when they picked up the band. It also helped showcase the breadth of emotions that they pull from. Historically, Emo as a genre tends to mean melancholy. When you apply the label to Paramore, it’s much more appropriate. Their songs can represent sadness, anger, and confusion, but also express feelings of joy and hopefulness, and the many degrees in between. brand new eye’s track “Where The Lines Overlap” was particularly moving, considering that the band had nearly broken up before the recording of the record. The song was truly triumphant- a rarity in a genre that tends to wallow in misery.

The main set ended with the bands biggest hit to date, “Decode,” the second song of the night from the soundtrack to the film Twilight. It may have been the 12th song of the set, but it felt like it was the third. It didn’t feel like the show was about to end, but they had in fact played for a full hour at this point.

The encore set was a bit more surprising. They played “Misguided Ghosts,” an acoustic number from brand new eyes that features finger picking and some of the most powerful singing to ever come from the punk rock world. To balance out the beauty of the first song of the encore, they finished the show with the two pronged assault of “Misery Business” and “Brick By Boring Brick.” The later song was helped out by Nick from The Swellers, as well as nearly every person who had been hanging out backstage, to sing the refrain. It was a great way to end a great set, and as anybody in showbiz can attest to, they finished the best way possible, by leaving the audience begging for more.

Set List:

I Caught Myself
That’s What You Get
Lookin Up
Turn It Off
Here We Go Again
Where The Lines Overlap
Misguided Ghosts
Misery Business
Brick By Boring Brick

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick November 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm

awesome review man…I was probably one of the kids holding up cameras…haha actually two cameras, iphone and digi cam. Yea the concert was amazing, some girl actually fainted in the front row where I was and security had to do their thing. PARAMORE!!!


alice December 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I keep finding myself surprised that I like Paramore as much as I do, given their popularity with the MTV/Top 40 crowd. Forgot to buy tickets to this show, but saw them open for No Doubt last summer and it just reaffirmed my affection for them.


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