Friday, March 15, 2013

PARAMORE: Pop Punk Juggernauts

I was but a wee sixteen-year-old when I heard Hayley’s yelping lyrics for the first time. I was a college freshman, earphones almost always stuck in my ears, obscure band tees always donned. Paramore’s songs somehow struck a chord with my teenage angst-pumping heart and I’ve always daydreamed about seeing the band perform live.

The second sonic riot

Fast forward to 2013: my music horizons have widened and I’m leaning more towards the sounds of Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, and the like. I’m wallowing in the beauty of the new musicscapes I’m stumbling upon. Yet, for some reason, when I hear Paramore, I can’t help but let nostalgia kick me in the gut. They’re one of the those bands that I can’t deny about being a part of myself. Last February 15 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, I was finally able to see them live. I covered their second Para-thrilla in Manila for Gala magazine.

8:00 PM. Fans were in a tizzy even during mewithoutYou’s set; they clapped and bopped their heads along to the indie band’s music. When the spotlights blinked out to end the front act, the Single’s Club sigil loomed as the stage’s backdrop. And then there she was—a lithe creature in the single spotlight, her flame-colored locks standing stark like a lit match-head in the darkness. The screams were deafening.

MAGICcrowd

But before I get into the details of the concert, I think it’s worth noting that I thought I’d die that night. I’m serious! “Wild” doesn’t even begin to cover the audience. It was all right in the beginning; my only problem then was there were lots of tall people in front. I was standing on my tiptoes in the middle, hoping that I’d get to see the whole band in the whole duration of the concert.

“Can you see anything onstage?” I asked a girl randomly, seeing that she’s having the same dilemma as me. The tall chatty guys sandwiching us were not helping.

“No,” she answered with a sheepish smile. “I’m just going to watch from the monitors. I’m too short!”
“So am I,” I laughed. “I’m practically a hobbit.”

“Welcome to the club!” she laughed back.

I wasn’t even able to get the girl’s name when suddenly, at the first blast of notes, we’re enmeshed in a true-blue moshpit. We’re squished, squeezed, crushed, and pressed together. I should be relishing the moment—Hayley’s just a few arm spans away from me!—but the first thing that occupied my head was “Where’s my freaking inhaler?!” I wanted to detach myself from the throng, but believe me, I felt like I’m surgically attached to everyone there. My lungs were starting to act funny and prove me once again they suck at being lungs. After three songs, a small gaggle beside me perhaps figured out they’d die in there too, so they started to inch their way away from the crowds. I followed suit, mouthing a goodbye to my newfound, nameless friend.

I found Debbie, our photographer for the event, wide-eyed and standing at the sides. She told me she couldn’t stay in there, that she actually fell and was lucky enough not to get stomped by the rabid fans. The thing here is that Debbie and I were no virgins to concerts; Debbie was rocking with punks and metalheads in PULP Summer Slams ever since she can remember, and I’ve been to gigs of artists with fairly gigantic fanbases. The wildness of Para-whores were really just surprising to us.

HayleyWildMAGIC

So yeah, focus back on stage: Hayley Williams is indeed a human firecracker. It’s not only because of her hair, it’s also about how she commanded the stage with all her fiery intensity. The moment she popped into view, her back to the megacrowds and fist raised high as if to lead the revolution she sparked a few years ago, you’d know the concert meant more than just a sonic party for the fans.

The band opened with “Now,” a new single from their yet-to-be-released album. Everybody was singing their hearts out; the lyrics “Lost the battle, win the war!” and “If there’s a future we want it now!” shook the arena. Those who were seated on the Lower and Upper Boxes as well as the ones in Gen-Ad were on their feet.

MAGICstage

The set list was eclectic; there were tracks from Riot!, Brand New Eyes, and even from All We Know is Falling. The arena echoed with the audience’s voices as Hayley let them sang the first verse of “That’s What You Get” and let them squeal on some parts of “Born for This.” The band blasted their best on the tracks “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” “Decode,” “Renegade,” Pressure,” and “Careful.”

In between tracks, Hayley opened the rather touchy issue: their past tumultuous years as a band. “The last two years were hard,” she confessed, referring to their experiences in the wake of brothers Zac and Josh Farros’ departure. “We’ve been through a lot but we made it through. We can’t be more grateful for what we have right now. To play music—it’s such a gift, an honor. It was you guys and everyone around the world who encouraged us with your stories.”

MAGICquietsongs

The musical merriment went on after the emotional spiel. To balance the heavy power pop in the show’s first half, Hayley sat down and performed an acoustic version of “In the Morning” that was interspersed with a few snippets from “Landslide.” As expected, the next song was the crowd favorite “The Only Exception.” The whole arena was studded with firefly-like glows as every cell phone and every iPad was raised and swayed against the pitch blackness of the venue. Everyone was also crooning along.

MAGICHayleysings

After a couple of more songs, the band bade goodbye to the droves of sweating fans who obviously wanted more. Their screaming pleas were granted when the trio (plus their session sticksman) tumbled back onstage for their encore performance. “Hello Cold World” was a perfect duet of the band and the audience.

But perhaps it was on the last song, “Misery Business,” that wrapped the whole thing up with an unforgettable ribbon: Hayley picked up a lucky fangirl onstage to sing with her! The mob was torn between being overly happy for the girl and for being too envious and wishing she was them. They were cheering all the same, and it was one helluva last number. Vanessa, the girl, rocked out and hugged and practically went crazy onstage while giving her best singing the anthemic Riot! single.

For everyone who exited the door, this night is surely one for the books.
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Photos by Magic Liwanag.
Don’t forget to grab a back issue of Gala magazine, where I penned a better and more complete post-cov write-up of the concert (sans the bloggery inanities). The event wouldn't be possible without Ovation Productions.

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