20 Dec 2018
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Gig Review: Paramore @ Spark Arena, Auckland 13/02/2018

14 Feb 2018 // A review by Alex Moulton

The crowd was bustling as Auckland’s Spark Arena slowly filled up. Not a full arena show, but the stage had been brought forward enough to ensure everyone was crowded in together. Milling around, the crowd broke into cheers and applause as the lights began to dim, and Jack Antanoff’s Bleachers came to the stage. Dressed in a singlet and white stubbies, Antanoff took control of the stage as the band tore into their set. Their style of music very reminiscent to that of Bruce Springsteen with a more modern and electronic flair, Bleachers has a very E Street Band vibe, with members mastering multiple instruments, commandeering drum kits, samples, keyboards, synthesizers, saxophones, and guitars, among others. Unfortunately suffering from the odd technical hitch, Antanoff’s frustration was visible in his gestures, but his talent and the depth of layers in the musical composition provided a full-bodied sound regardless. The crowd was easy to read, and while they were largely unfamiliar with Bleacher’s back catalogue, they remained enthusiastic and supportive, cheering with strength, to the 80’s pop selection.  The band were avid performers and moved about the stage with ease, and climbing atop the kit, as they leapt about the stage, not missing a note.

Once Bleachers vacated the stage, and the equipment was set up for the headliner, all eyes were on the visual displays; With a large circular prop suspended above the stage, with concentric circles of lighting, giving the illusion of a simple dartboard. Ear-splitting cheers and screams fill Spark Arena as the headliners Paramore come out on stage this muggy Tuesday night. Four years since they were last on our shores, and it is clear that New Zealand has been anticipating their return. With yet another line-up change, Paramore has seen the return of founding member Zac Farro, but the theme of the night returns again and again to change and growth.

As lights began to flash and moving images were projected onto the board, they started their set with recent single Hard Times and 2009 favourite Ignorance, the crowd (both standing and seated) unanimously and simultaneously jump, creating waves of colour as their outstretched phones capture the stage lighting like a delayed strobe. Touring in support of the release of their fifth album, After Laughter, their set list includes nine tracks from the album, with a clear preference for their more recent material, moving away from the punky, aggressive sound, towards a more light-hearted and commercially mainstream style.  But no matter the style of music, vocalist and frontwoman Hayley Williams exercises charismatic control over the audience. Providing banter, eliciting cheers, encouraging the crowd to sing along, and fitting in as many “New Zealand is the greatest place in the world” as possible, it is clear that Williams knows how to keep the audience happy.

With the band’s growth and movement away from their angstier roots, comes a reduction in the presence of older material in the set list, but it wouldn’t be a Paramore concert without That’s What You Get and getting a member of the crowd to help sing Misery Business. The three-piece band have four additional touring members bringing a total of seven members on stage, creating a very layered and powerful performance. It makes it hard for any of the members to stand out, yet Taylor York’s pendulous movements and nonchalance draws your eye’ the act of not trying to get your attention, in fact, gets your attention. The foremost focal point for Paramore is and has always been William’s voice; switching between soft or sweet, and piercing or powerful, when William’s puts in the effort to hit the notes, it is an absolute pleasure to hear. At the start of their set, William’s vocals were slightly muffled, drowned out by the rest of the band, and was clearly set at a lower volume compared to the Justin York’s backing vocals which overpowered throughout the first few songs. However, the levels soon evened out as the set progressed, and the rest of the show moved along like a well-oiled machine. The flutter of mobile camera flashes during Hate to See Your Heart Break, the Half-Noise cover song during the encore performance, the crowd continued to chant, cheer, and jump until the last notes were played. A commanding performance from the band that has managed to hold onto their core fanbase throughout their musical evolution, and a sure sign of the consistent quality that is to be expected for the remainder of the tour.


Review written by Alex Moulton

 

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