Over the last decade and change, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams has become a captivating anomaly in the pop landscape. Few, if any have so deftly springboarded themselves from Warped Tour side-stages to the deck of their own cruise ship, let alone into top-charting EDM and rap songs and Taylor Swift music videos. (Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba, perhaps; maybe Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance; maybe the All-American Rejects.) It’s an exceptional feat, but certainly not one born of pure serendipity.
This was not meant to be forgotten during the pop-punk (can we even call them that anymore?) band members’ set Saturday night at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. The athletic, high-octane affair was peppered with sentimental monologues and crowd-titillating maneuvers worthy of such a dramatic venue.
This wasn’t a clean evolution, to be sure; a messy 2010 split with original drummer and guitarist brothers Zac and Josh Farro has lingered amid Paramore’s continued rise lyrically. But the show that Williams and her band -- original members Jeremy Davis (bass) and Taylor York (guitar), and touring members Justin York (guitar) and Aaron Gillespie (drums) -- have perfected in the two years since the release of their self-titled 2013 record is drum-tight. There can be no question as to whether those bumps were inevitable on the road to such a sublime metamorphosis.
Williams was equal parts Shirley Manson and "The Fifth Element’s" Leeloo on Saturday, with an energy usually reserved for particularly enthusiastic aerobics instructors. She ricocheted in signature form around the stage, her voice -- vastly underrated in the pop-singer firmament -- powering through a 20-song, two-hour set list, mostly drawn from the band’s last two records but also featuring a few debut and sophomore cuts.
The night’s central theme was loyalty. Williams’ longtime friend and former Civil Wars singer Joy Williams joined the Paramore frontwoman onstage for a duet on the crushingly empathetic “Hate to See Your Heart Break”; later, after a long instrumental during which Hayley Williams toured the orchestra section and engaged with the crowd, two particularly devoted fans were invited onstage and given their own brightly colored microphones to help her sing (and head-bang) the band’s 2007 hit “Misery Business.”
Between songs, Williams reminisced about the band having now “played together for 13 years,” the unspoken caveat coming across loud and clear to any fan in the building who tuned in before the split. (In another fairly loaded moment, she thanked Copeland, another '00s pop-punk-ish band that invited Paramore on its first-ever tour and that has now been opening for the group.)
An acoustic break featured the York brothers harmonizing their guitars on either side of Williams as she doubled down into storytelling, recalling her parents’ divorce, Davis’ recent marriage and her own “situation” (with New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert) as stepping stones on her personal evolution from cynic to true believer.
But perhaps the most effective moment of the night came with the performance of “Paramore” cut “(One of Those) Crazy Girls,” a theatrical doo-wop number in which Williams plays a jilted, slightly overzealous woman who calls her now-ex “a hundred times” (among other, more worrisome behavior).
Instead of playing it straight -- a move that could very well have communicated the wrong idea about Williams’ intentions with the song -- she encouraged the whole audience to “embrace their inner crazy.” First, she invited the women to sing the refrain (“I’m not one of those crazy girls”) over and over. Then, when her matching invitation to “the boys” was met by silence, she briskly, decisively strong-armed them: “We can’t be the only ones that are crazy, and right now, boys, in front of Los Angeles, I would like you all to admit it.”
And by God, they did.
"That's What You Get"
"Never Let This Go"
"Hate to See Your Heart Break' (Joy Williams duet)
"Misguided Ghosts' (acoustic)
"The Only Exception" (acoustic)
"Still Into You"
"(One of Those) Crazy Girls"
"I Caught Myself"
"Ain't it Fun"