Paramore Light Up Spark Arena as the After Laughter Tour Rolls Into Auckland

Paramore – Spark Arena  February 13, 2018

As Paramore’s 7-piece band take the stage the mosh starts to scream. Hard Times, lead single for their fifth studio album, After Laughter, is first off the rack. Lead singer and all-round energy-bunny, Hayley Williams leads the crowd in the first of many sing-alongs. Williams tiptoes, pogoes-a-go-go, skips like a school girl and collapses on the floor. It’s all mesmerising.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – there was a happy intensity in the air as the crowds massed for openers, Bleachers. Double the synths, and double the drums, the 5 piece symmetrically inhabit the stage. Front man Jack Antonoff raucously pacing through hits like Rollercoaster and the euphoric You’re Still A Mystery. A brilliant audience ‘call-and-response’ session on Evan Smith’s saxophone during I Wanna Get Better drags in the lingering punters at the back, who then all lap up Antonoff’s beautifully expletive-laden praise of Auckland and New Zealand.

There are multiple troubles with Antonoff’s guitar, which never seem to worry the Lorde co-writer, here showing off his prowess on a rock 6-string, albeit silently. He has enough and stops the whole band so he can join in the crash ending to final song, Don’t Take the Money. This sends the crowd into bellowing shouts of “more, more, more” and it suddenly doesn’t seem right that support bands aren’t allowed encores.

No sooner do Paramore take the stage than the dedicated mosh starts to scream. It’s another 2 drummer affair, with long-time member Taylor York supplying a third layer of percussive beats to the rabble-rousing intro sound.

Hard Times, first single off Paramore’s fifth album After Laughter, is first off the rack, with lead singer and all-round energy-bunny, Hayley Williams leading the crowd in the first of many sing-alongs. She points her microphone towards the crowd, but they already know what to do, giving word-for-word backing vocals to songs old and new throughout the set.

As if the fun-ness of Paramore’s songs is not enough, Williams herself is non-stop. She tiptoes like a cat on a hot tin roof, she does the running man, she pogoes-a-go-go, she shadow boxes, she skips on the spot like a school girl, she lies fallen on the floor. She’s mesmerising.

A giant metal dustbin lid contraption poised behind the stage provides standard arena lighting, but there’s no doubt where the action is. There are times when Paramore dig into their back catalogue of hits, like Still Into You that there are tidal surges of held-aloft smart-phone screens; videoing a simulacrum of the spectacle. But during mid-set’s Hate to See Your Heart Break, phones are put to genuinely good use and turn the arena into a temple of adulation and empathetic audience participation.

Zac Farro is back on pounding drums. Having survived an acrimonious separation from the band, it seems they are more together now than ever. There’s pre-song banter from Hayley Williams about the wonder of being in a band and visiting places all over the world, and the importance of forgiveness. Other long-term member Taylor York frequently skips from his spot to wig out with band mates, especially during numbers drawn from new album After Laughter.

The crowd lightens up during these newer songs. Fake Happy gets some response, but the poppier, syncopated, synth-driven sounds here tend to fall on muted ears. But as soon as those guitars crank up, it’s back on full mosh.

Second album’s Misery Business is a real treat as ecstatic fan-girl, Emily, is picked to duet with Williams. “Strap those puppies on,” she shouts as the set-closer gets the whole place up, again word-for-word sing-alongs. It’d be hard not to lose yourself in the sheer joy of the moment when you’re physically in the middle witnessing it.

After an introduction to the band, including special attention to New Zealand’s very own keyboardist Logan MacKenzie – “thanks for letting us borrow him” – there’s a cover of French Class by HalfNoise, which sees drummer Zac Farrow on main vocals, harmonising gorgeously with Williams.

Promising they’ll be backer sooner than the four years since they last played in New Zealand, Williams waxes lyrically about New Zealand, wishing they could do their whole world tour here. As the first chords of Rose-Coloured Boy strike up, Williams asks the crowd “not to forget”, then she and they, in unison, shout “that we are Paramore.” A perfect mantra to end a fantastic gig.

Simon Todd

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