Paramore dances the night away at MGM National Harbor
Armed with a set of new tracks and old favorites, the band got everyone on their feet
"If you cry, you will dance harder," singer Hayley Williams instructed the crowd gathered at the MGM National Harbor Theater last Wednesday. Under the projected glow of retro neon lights, Paramore was just beginning their third stop of “Tour Two” in support their newest album "After Laughter," a release that balances a certain happy-sad dichotomy.
While Williams’ own face shined with blue glitter tears, her smile and the crowd's automatic cheers showed that any tears shed would have the sparkling, hopeful undertones of Williams' own.
During their 19-song setlist, Williams, Taylor York, Zac Farro and their band of friends journeyed through Paramore’s various eras, cycling through stories of both the past and the present. From losing bandmates to transitioning into adulthood, Paramore’s music acts as a type of expressional remedy for both the band and the fans, especially in their high-energy live shows.
The set showed off the band’s consistent dancey, headbanging sound while still highlighting just how raw and honest each song is lyrically. The featured “After Laughter” tracks of the night seemed to explicitly portray the constant conflict of these two factors.
Within the opening moments of “Hard Times,” audience members grooved to the funky guitar riffs while screaming out, “All that I want, is to wake up fine, tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die.” Williams sang out “Oh please, I bet everybody here is fake happy too,” as fans genuinely smiled and moved to the rock sound of “Fake Happy.” Even “Rose Colored Boy” had a contagious, bubbly passion in the room while lyrics like, “Just let me cry a little bit longer, I ain't gon' smile if I don't want to” floated around.
Despite the brutal honesty of the lyrics, the dance-inducing beats had the ultimate control over the crowd, something which proved true even as the band dove into their old catalog.
The crowd bounced around just as much to the lovestruck vibes of “Still Into You” as they did to the thoughtful verses of “Daydreaming.” Long-standing classics like “Ignorance,” “That’s What You Get” and “Misery Business” elicited the energy of a Warped Tour crowd ─ despite the fact that they were actually in the seats of a giant theater.
The band’s covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” and Farro’s own “Scooby's in the Back” sparked excitement, even though some were hearing the songs for the first time. Even the empathetic “Hate to See Your Heart Break” got passionate sways and a few phone lights waving in the air.
However, at one point, the dancing did stop. In one of the show's most poignant moments, the room was transformed from a dazzling neon spectacle into an intimate acoustic space for a performance of "26." Over York's soft guitar, Williams and the crowd sung out, "Hold onto hope if you got it, don't let it go for nobody," as their voices formed into one collective call.
In that moment, it was obvious that there was a certain mutuality in the performance. As much as Williams was singing for us, we were singing for her. In fact, we had been doing it during the entire set.
It is live performances like these that answer age-old questions that bands have been asked for ages: who does the music save, the band or the fans? Is this song happy or sad? Should you cry or dance at a concert?
For Paramore, the answer is both.
And, moments later, as Williams transitioned into the opening words of “Told You So,” the crowd was back to dancing in mere seconds.