"Tunes from 'After Laughter' show us an introspective Paramore, one that's been through the line-up changes, the break-ups, the gossip, the growing up. It's a vehicle of Williams's maturation."
Let's start this review with this: every band should have multiple drummers.
For Bleachers, Jack Antonoff has brought along two drummers (Sean Hutchinson and Mike Riddleberger) and two guys (Evan Smith and Mikey Hart) playing a mix of synths, sample pads, sax and guitars, set up in a way that is perfectly symmetrical save for Antonoff himself flitting between his band members. He's dressed just like Bruce Springsteen in his early days - who is a huge inspiration - in a white tee tucked into light blue jeans, and his brand of opulent, '80s heartland rock-cum-synth pop is brought to life magnificently tonight. There's a sleazy sax (amazing!), crisp guitar solos and all four guys in his band chip in on vocals to produce big, bright songs like Everybody Lost Somebody and You're Still A Mystery.
Antonoff says, "It's very tense in America and it just feels like paradise being here with you." And it is musical paradise - everyone in the band is seriously talented, as they each demonstrate through their raucous solos, and we're all having so much fun on stage and off. Don't Take The Money is dead last and it gives off the impression that all through their set, Bleachers have simply played what makes them happy and not what we want to hear, and this in turn has come across authentic, refreshing and downright brilliant. Bleachers are a seriously impressive live act.
Apparently Paramore wanna keep the multiple drummer thing going too (yes!) because they kick off the show with a moody drum intro on three kits, evolving into Hard Times from their latest, After Laughter. It's a pretty reserved opening despite how keen the crowd are already, but showstopper Hayley Williams is already thrashing around with her blonde crimped hair in a black mini dress (or is it a playsuit? Cute, regardless), as she will all night. Brand New Eyes cut Ignorance gets a huge outing straight after, Williams changing up the way she sings its choruses by screaming through a megaphone like a mad dictator. We like the playfulness here.
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Williams, drummer Zac Farro and guitarist Taylor York are a seven-piece tonight with their touring band - there's an extra percussionist Joseph Mullen, an extra guitarist Justin York, an extra multi-instrumentalist Logan MacKenzie (who helps flesh out much of Paramore's new synth-heavy, indie pop sound) and a bassist Joey Howard in place of departed founding bassist Jeremy Davis. Backed with a huge circular lighting rig that almost looks like a dartboard, it's showing us geometric patterns in arrays of blue, pink, purple and yellow to match the '80s aesthetic of After Laughter.
We're getting a good mix of old and new material - and the band do have five albums to cherrypick from at this stage - so we're treated to songs like Still Into You, Forgiveness, Hate To See Your Heart Break and I Caught Myself. Their new tracks are notably low-energy live though - the singing from the crowd is there, but we're wondering whether the diehards are missing the old school moshing. Oh yeah, when they pull out the groovy That's What You Get from the Riot! archives, we go hard.
But, tunes from After Laughter show us an introspective Paramore, one that's been through the line-up changes, the break-ups, the gossip, the growing up. It's a vehicle of Williams's maturation, and songs like Caught In The Middle and Fake Happy allow us a peek into her mind the last couple years. Her voice is as good as ever - soaring, soulful (thanks to her Tennessee roots) with just a hint of sass.
Williams takes a minute to very subtly address the lyrics of Misery Business before we get into the track - in recent days, Williams has taken to not singing the seemingly anti-feminist, though highly iconic, line: "Once a whore you're nothing more/I'm sorry that'll never change." She tells us, "The most important thing to take away from tonight is that the people we are today in 2018 [are] not the same people we were in 2006... So as we play this next song together, I want you to celebrate that we're growing, and we're moving forward, and we're changing. Because people DO change, contrary to what 17-year-old Hayley thought." The song starts, and the lyric arrives, and Williams puts a finger to her lips as we yell the line for her. And then the Paramore family tradition continues in bringing up a lucky punter to sing the bridge of Misery Business - someone from our section is the chosen one tonight.
It's all bangers from here on out - we're taken to church with Ain't It Fun and given some adult realness with Grow Up. We're even treated to a song from Zac Farro's solo project HalfNoise, a track called French Class that Farro rocks a tambourine on with Williams on back-up duties, until she finally returns to the mic for new single and their last song Rose-Coloured Boy.