Paramore, Kitten Bayou Music Center April 25, 2013
During what I like to call the great Zumiez boom of the 2000s, emo bands moved from depressing and mopey to more pop-punk. Like any other musical trend, this era eventually came and went. Very few of the bands that had once filled stadiums and possessed a rabid fanbase made it through to the other side of 2010.
Paramore is an exception, and if you were at the show Thursday night, you understand why. In a word, Paramore kicks ass.
I would be remiss to not shine a light on L.A.-based opener Kitten before I get to Paramore, though. Let's face it. Openers are a crapshoot. We have all heard some of the best hidden gems and some of the most rotten garbage during opening sets. Kitten was unquestionably the former.
Headed by 18-year-old Chloe Chaidez, this was one of the best opening sets I've seen in a very long time. There were moments that I felt that this was the band I had come to see. Chaidez has an amazing voice reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, and the band's sound is an amalgamation of indie that doesn't suck, modern New Wave, power female vocals, and electro math-rock.
Kitten was also a perfect opener for Paramore; they appealed to the bigger band's fanbase but varied enough stylistically to help avert the inevitable comparisons to their tourmates. Chaidez is precocious in a totally non-irritating way, with stage antics like walking on her hands and climbing a speaker stack. It is safe to say this band will make themselves a lot of new fans on this tour, and we will all be hearing more from them in the future.
After Kitten was done impressing the crowd and a brief intermission, Paramore's Hayley Williams, Jeremy Davis, and Taylor York took the stage and greeted the room of screaming, excited fans. The band started with a very short and cheerful song, and then proceeded to rip the crowd open with their 2007 breakout hit "Misery Business."
Williams, who wore a mask of black makeup that fittingly painted her as some kind of superhero, immediately began the impossibly easy task of proving that she is one of the best front women in modern rock. The band's energy level was insane, much of it stemming from their lead singer.
Williams is like some kind of badass mixture of Gwen Stefani and Pat Benatar. Vocally, she has an amazing rock/opera/punk thing going on, and her energy output is explosive. There is a sweetness about her voice that completely disappears whenever she wails (which is often). Put that all into a cocoon with unbridled power-pop and punk, and out comes this amazing bullet with butterfly wings.
At one point she sang a cappella. It was insane. If I sang one song like that at karaoke, I would lose my voice for a week.
Davis and York must have quite the task matching Williams' sheer energy, but they managed well. They had the crowd clapping, waving their arms, and screaming before the end of the second song. (They also had a great moment when they did side rolls over one another's backs with guitars in tow).
By the end of "Misery Business," I was reminded why this genre of music became so popular in the mid-2000s, and keenly aware of why Paramore has continued to grow a fanbase year after year while other bands faded away.
After the song ended, Williams took a moment to tell the crowd, "It's been a long time, Texas. Too Long. And we plan on making up for it tonight." The band ripped into "Decode" and the crowd was ecstatic. Williams has not made an empty promise.
What Williams hasn't yet shared with the crowd is that Houston is actually their first stop on this tour, the band's first since 2011, when founding members Josh and Zac Farro left the band. It's clear that the brothers' departure has had an impact on the music the band is making now; Williams has described their new album as "happier" and "brighter" and remarked during the show that it's the "album they have always wanted to make."
As a spectator, the newer songs do feel different, but not in a contrived way that is often evident when there are structural changes in a group. The band has changed and so their sound is changing, but it feels like natural development that still respects their fanbase and their core.
Paramore's future may have been unclear after the Farro brothers' departure, but now it is undeniably clear. As stated in their first hit from their new album (self-titled Paramore) "If there's a future, we want it now." And they've got it. Their album debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, a first for the band. And it's clear to see why: Thursday's crowd loved every song, and this was the best crowd I've ever seen in Houston.
After "Fast In My Car," a delightfully ambiguous throwback to a decade I can't quite place -- '70s? '80s? '90s? '00s? -- the band called up a small handful of fans onstage for "Anklebiters," a new track all about being yourself and perfect for Generation Bully. This used to be the go-to for crowd interaction.
But wait! There's more! Williams had a camera and was taking pictures that streamed on the screen throughout the song, and fans were told they could check out their pics on Paramore's Web site later. This is how you grow your fanbase in 2013.
After ending with streamer cannons and "So Into You" off the new album, a fun song that made the girls behind me sing louder than they had all night, Paramore came back out for a quick encore. They ended with the new album's "Hate to See Your Heart Break," and I took a moment to really look at the girls behind me.
They were clearly holding on to their love of this music, this genre, but it seemed they were walking a tightrope of EDM fashion. When they aren't here, they are likely listening to "Harlem Shake" (not that there's anything wrong with that) and making plastic jewelry.
But like anything else, trends will die. Paramore reminded me of why talent always prevails, and why good music is never a trend. I'm sure these girls agree.
Personal Bias: From start to finish, this show exceeded my already-high expectations.
The Crowd: Ages 14-40, parents standing in the back, a gaggle of overly-ansgty 15-year-olds with unfortunate haircuts, knee-high tenniboots, Manic Panic enthusiasts, girls who genuinely love rock music and not just because boys do.
Overheard In the Crowd: The girls behind me sang. A lot. I turned around at a point to tell them "You guys have good voices!" (They did.) This spurred them on even more.
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Random Notebook Dump: From across the room I spotted the greatest shirt ever. I then met Bill Pyle and his adorable daughters Emily and Audrey. Bill told me about how they have been going to concerts as a family since the girls were young. Music starts in the family. Here's Bill's shirt.