When Hayley Williams asked a sold-out Fiserv Forum late Tuesday night if it was anyone’s first Paramore show, at least half the crowd screamed in delight. They knew they were the lucky ones; as any pandemic-era concert-goer knows, the rug can be pulled out from under us at any time, and for this show it nearly was. Williams came down with a lung infection and was forced to postpone four dates of the band’s west coast swing; the tour had just resumed on Saturday in Tulsa. Judging by the enthusiasm of these Milwaukee Paramore fans, though, nearly every one would’ve found a way to make it to a rescheduled date.
Williams’ stated goal for the night was “two hours away from the world, just tonight, just to forget about it,” and it had not exactly been smooth sailing up until then. While opening act The Linda Lindas got through their manic, vigorous set without incident, Foals weren’t so lucky. After dedicating “Birch Tree” to “the original Giannis…Antetokounmpo,” singer Yannis Philippakis was forced to stop the set as the band began its next song, “Spanish Sahara,” as a fan was on the floor in need of assistance. Venue security quickly ushered the fan to safety and the show went on. In short order, Foals seemed to transform into a different band. While the first half of their set could best be described as “jam band music minus the jams,” they showed more of their Britpop/post-rock influences with “Mountain At My Gates,” “Inhaler,” and “What Went Down,” all of which built to roaring crescendos.
Paramore began at 8:58 p.m. with the rousing “You First,” Williams kicking and twirling around the stage. By 9 p.m. she had to bring the music to a screeching halt as personnel rescued another unsteady fan from the pit. “Thumbs up if you’re ready to start a show,” said Williams after the incident. Up went thousands of thumbs, and the band restarted the opener from the top, with slight variations on the dance moves.
The entire crowd was on its feet before the band even appeared, and bopped enthusiastically to the first two songs, both from Paramore’s 2023 release This Is Why. But when the band busted into its 2008 platinum single “That’s What You Get,” the intensity in the room shot through the roof, sparking a deafening audience singalong.
“I think we all need this night,” said Williams prior to a pair of highlights from 2017’s After Laughter album. “We need to dance and scream and cry and get it all out tonight.” And while rock-star pandering should always be taken with a grain of salt, Williams seemed genuinely taken aback by the fierce crowd chant prior to “Rose-Colored Boy,” which she offered to teach the crowd, though it proved unnecessary. “Best of the tour baby, best of the whole fuckin’ tour! It was the confidence, the flavor.”
Plenty of folks—including erstwhile founding guitarist Josh Farro—have accused Paramore of being little more than a Williams solo project, a reputation that’s hard for a charismatic frontwoman who is also the primary creative force of the group to live down. She gave plenty of props to her six-piece backing band, however, and at one point she and her two longest-serving bandmates—founding drummer Zac Farro and guitarist Taylor York, who joined officially in 2009—snuck onto an elevated mini-stage to play two songs, with the rest of the musicians still playing below. It felt a little forced at first, but it quickly put the focus on Zac’s expert drumming—a factor that got lost in the majority of the set because Paramore has inexplicably added an auxiliary drummer (Joseph Mullen) to the touring lineup. It doesn’t make for a bigger or better sound, but it did help having Mullen up there when Farro came front and center to sing “Baby,” a song from his solo project HalfNoise.
It was the quieter moments of the show that proved most difficult to navigate. During “Crystal Clear,” which Williams began as a vocal solo on the mini-stage, the raucous crowd took advantage to hoot and holler rather than respect the moment. Later, during the ballad “The Only Exception,” the fog rolling off the stage was a nice touch, but the hissing monsoon of sparkles raining down behind the band during its climax didn’t really work. It was a cool visual but would’ve been more effective during a louder song rather than a well-deserved breather.
If anyone hadn’t yet shed tears by the time the set was drawing to a close, there were few holdouts remaining when Williams located a Paramore first-timer by the name of Aubree in the crowd, and had her dad bring her onstage to help sing “Misery Business.” The pint-sized fan handled the spotlight adorably and the set then closed with “Ain’t It Fun,” one of only three tunes from the group’s landmark self-titled album.
Paramore played one more from that album, “Still Into You,” to start the encore, and then ended the show with “This Is Why” from the new album, the crowd as eager for this one as for any of the band’s oldies. As the band has aged and swapped members, its sound has expanded from simple pop-punk, a gradual glam makeover that’s expanded its audience; the new album has returned Paramore almost to the top of the Billboard charts again. Based on the overwhelming sense of mutual joy in this Fiserv crowd, if any aspect of Williams’ changing style has alienated some fans, Paramore doesn’t need ’em anyway.
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