“If there is one song to sum up the soap opera that Paramore has been, it’s this one,” singer Hayley Williams said toward the end of her poppy punk band’s sold-out Wiltern show Wednesday. The band then band dove into a fanged take on its 2009 single “Ignorance,” particularly the verse where Williams calls out the buzzkills in her life: “Don't wanna hear your sad songs, don't wanna feel your pain.”
Everyone in the audience knew exactly who that was intended for. This is Paramore’s first round of touring after parting with co-founding band members Josh and Zac Farro, and “irreconcilable differences” barely begins to describe the split. Each side obviously has its own take on the breakup (in 2010, the Farro brothers posted a thorough and thoughtful account of their reasons for leaving).
But for now, the remaining three members -- Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York -- have a new, chart-topping album and a sold-out tour to make their own case. Who knows what really happened behind the scenes. But in front of them, this new incarnation of Paramore is more compelling than the soap opera.
Paramore grew out of the mid-aughts wave of arena-emo that included Fueled by Ramen labelmates Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco. The ocher-haired Williams had obvious star power, and the band had a knack for melodramatic pop-punk full of sharp corners and big choruses on its 2007 breakout album “Riot!.”
But the tensions (religious, romantic, power-dynamic -- you name it) were obvious in Paramore’s lyrics and interviews, and after the split, fans wondered whether Williams’ presence was enough of a glue to keep the new band consistent.
For the most part, it was. At the Wiltern, the three remaining members caroused at the front of the stage (with a darkened cast of session musicians behind them on a riser). Williams' performance indicated a few cues borrowed from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, from her face-mask makeup and neon-spattered leggings to her yelpy screams on the new single “Now.”
The new album is both more adult and more snottily punk than anything they’ve done. They played “Anklebiters” as a two-minute Descendents-y spitball, and York’s grimy scrawls on “Fast in My Car” could pass for Sonic Youth -- a promising sign, as he’s manning most of the guitar duties now.
It’s obvious they’re worried that all the changes could alienate old fans, however. They made sure the Wiltern set included staples such as “Misery Business” and the “Twilight” soundtrack cut “Decode,” and Davis and York replicated the airborne tumble-roll move from the band’s early video for the single “Pressure.”
But fortunately for Paramore, the most enthusiastic reception during their set came during the band’s latest single -- and biggest departure from its old sound. “Still Into You” plays like a punky Roy Orbison, a simple rock-and-roll walk-up with uncomplicated affection. But when they played it with that much enthusiasm (and after so much brackish tour-bus drama), it was clear that the new post-soap-opera Paramore hasn’t lost the plot.
Before Paramore, though, the frighteningly young and composed L.A. band Kitten threatened to steal the night out from under the headliner. The quintet has pivoted from a well-received residency at the Bootleg Bar into a bona-fide theater act. Kitten's sound has evolved from an electro-punky snarl into something grander, with slow builds befitting of the big rooms the band's playing on this tour.
Kitten’s teenage singer Chloe Chaidez was clearly born only for the task of rock stardom. She spent a good swath of the set perched atop the Wiltern’s speaker system, lying on her stomach and kicking her legs like she was in the throes of the most exciting late-night phone call of her life. With a major-label debut LP on Elektra coming soon, she should get ready for plenty more thrills to come.