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Live Review: Paramore @ Rod Laver Arena 2023

29 November 2023 | 2:29 pm | Monique La Terra

Paramore have found the sonic sweet point between musically ambitious and self-assured fluidity. Check out The Music's review and setlist below.

Paramore @ Rod Laver Arena

Paramore @ Rod Laver Arena (Credit: Zachary Gray)

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Having made their way down the East Coast in support of their critically acclaimed sixth studio album, This Is Why, Paramore are closing out their Australian tour with three dates at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. 

With a career spanning 18 years, Paramore have continually reinvented themselves and are currently enjoying a renaissance of sorts. The band have enjoyed a memorable year with a global tour, Grammy nominations, and an opening slot on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Not forgetting their set at Bonnaroo, where vocalist Hayley Williams later joined the Foo Fighters on stage for a surprise performance of My Hero. In fact, as far as Australia is concerned, Paramore have reached a new career high, having played their biggest Australian headline show to date at Sydney's Domain on Saturday night (25 November).

Filing into Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena were a crowd who epitomised the phrase “See mum, it’s not just a phase”, albeit some now with kids in tow. From teenage angst to thirty-something realities, Paramore’s music reflects their lives and those of their fans. 

Inside, concertgoers could take photos in front of a poster of Hayley Williams and her longtime hairstylist and makeup artist Brian O’Connor in exchange for a bandana, advertising the pair’s hair colour brand, Good Dye Young. Paramore also teamed up with food rescue organisations OzHarvest (Australia) and KiwiHarvest (New Zealand), with a portion of all ticket sales to be donated to help reduce food waste and create lasting positive social change. 

Taking our seats, my eyes were immediately drawn to the inflatable Christmas decorations on stage, a seemingly random choice until Mariah Carey’s earworm All I Want For Christmas Is You began to play, and Remi Wolf burst onto the stage with enough zany energy to rival Buddy the Elf

No stranger down under, having circumnavigated the country playing Beyond the Valley, Wildlands, and Field Day, as well as several headlining shows in December 2022 and January 2023, Remi oozed confidence and admitted that she understood her assignment was to warm up the crowd. 

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The thing is, she did more than that. Chaotic in the best way, the Palo Alto singer and former Olympic skier spent 45 minutes delivering her own unique style of funky-pop, winning over the entire crowd in the process. 

With more high kicks than a David Lee Roth compilation video, Remi rolled and crawled across the stage, playfully toying with the crowd. She even led us through an exercise routine where we loosened our hip flexes, vocal chords, and exhaled the day’s bullshit.

Supported by a three-piece band, Remi charmed the crowd with absurdist lyrical imagery paralleled by a powerhouse voice, which she skilfully manipulated from soulful to cartoonish and back again. Stand-out songs included Liquor Store, Michael, Liz, Photo ID, and Disco Man

A light flickered on the screen as Grey Area (Note to Self), a spoken word poem written by Paramore’s Hayley Williams, played over the speakers, culminating in distortion as the word “enough” echoed through the crowd. 

Fronted by 00’s darling Hayley Williams, with Zac Farro on drums and Taylor York on guitar, the three-piece from Franklin, Tennessee, were supported by three touring musicians. The crowd went wild, with orange wigs shaking furiously in the pit as the band launched into You First, complete with confetti canon and red lighting. 

Above the band, three light-up isosceles trapezoids tilted and lowered throughout the set, giving the effect of a flying saucer preparing for touchdown while also providing intimate moments when the pieces were lowered and adding a sense of grandeur when raised.

Williams admitted that Melbourne is the band’s favourite Australian city but not to go “bragging about on the internet.” Sorry Hayley.  

The entire arena was on their feet by the time the band got to That’s What You Get. From the brooding Playing God to the bubbly Caught in the Middle, where “bad dancing” was encouraged, Paramore’s musical dexterity was ever-present. Rose-Colored Boy featured extracts from Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Tom Tom Club's Genius Of Love, as well as a brief appearance from Hug Me Elmo. However, it was the opening notes from Decode, made famous by Twilight, which elicited the most feverish reaction.

The show’s most subdued moment came as the original trio performed Liar off This is Why and Crystal Clear from Hayley’s solo project on an elevated platform. Metaphorically, one might consider the elevation as a reflection of the band’s progression from punk to poised, with Hayley’s voice elegantly drawing you in. 

Malfunctioning pyrotechnics led to a quick lyric change from Williams during Hard Times while raining sparklers and phone lights gave The Only Exception a dreamy quality. 

As the show drew to a close, there was still one song fans were itching to hear—a song the band pulled off their setlist for many years due to one controversial line in the second verse. Thankfully, Misery Business is back, allowing the crowd to reminisce about a time dominated by “jeans that cut circulation off at the knees.” And while Hayley may cover her mouth, preferring to let the audience sing the scandalous line, the song is undoubtedly a highlight of the night, particularly, for two front-row fans who were invited on stage to sing the bridge and final chorus.

The encore follows Ain’t It Fun with a montage of iPhone footage depicting the band’s journey over the last few years. The boppy Still Into You and their latest title track, This Is Why, closed out the show along with streamers and red flares.

After a five-year hiatus, Paramore have resurfaced as a more refined version of themselves, and it turns out that evolution suits them. It seems they have found the sonic sweet point between musically ambitious and self-assured fluidity. 

Paramore 2023 Australian Tour Setlist - Melbourne

  1. You First

  2. The News

  3. That’s What You Get

  4. Playing God

  5. Caught in the Middle

  6. Rose-Colored Boy

  7. Running Out of Time

  8. Decode

  9. Last Hope

  10. Big Man, Little Dignity

  11. Liar

  12. Crystal Clear (Hayley Williams song)

  13. Hard Times

  14. Figure 8

  15. The Only Exception

  16. Crave

  17. Baby (HalfNoise cover)

  18. Misery Business

  19. Ain’t It Fun

Encore

  1. Still Into You

  2. This Is Why