Wind and rain may have pummeled the pavement outside Ovens Auditorium on Monday night, which marked the second show on Grammy-winning rock band Paramore’s Tour Two. But frontwoman Hayley Williams was a storm in her own right, charging around the stage, jumping, kicking, and running in place without her voice faltering.
She’d done enough cardio by the end of the two opening songs, “Hard Times” and “Ignorance,” to constitute most people’s daily workout. Yet she wasn’t even winded.
Neither were Paramore’s fans, who met the first notes of each song – “Still Into You” and “Daydreaming” came next – with screams of adulation usually reserved for the latest teen pop phenomenon or Taylor Swift.
These are people, mind you, who have practically grown up with Williams, who was only 16 when the group released its pop-punk debut in 2005. She’s long been a rock veteran and role model in their eyes. Even on her earliest Warped Tour, she commanded the stage, but she’s developed into such a charismatic, comfortable front person that it’s hard to imagine her doing anything else.
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Williams praised Charlotte. She said they felt entrenched in the city since “arriving at Lunchbox Friday,” referencing her trip to the local record store Friday. She also thanked the folks at another stop – Whole Foods.
Following the quiet, intimate “26,” she and Paramore hopped back into upbeat pop, with the Latin-meets-new-wave bop of “Told You So,” ending the set a few songs later with its biggest hits: “Misery Business” and that aforementioned Grammy winner “Ain’t It Fun.”
The newer, quirkier pop tracks continued through the encore with the ska-hop of “Caught in the Middle” and “Rose-Colored Boy,” reminding me again of the last time I saw Paramore – opening for No Doubt’s reunion tour in 2009. Its fifth album, “After Laughter,” may echo No Doubt’s “Rock Steady” in its desire to explore new arrangements and sonic territory, but live Paramore has become a real rock n’ roll force in its own right thanks to its natural-born frontwoman.
Opening for Paramore, Best Coast made its Charlotte debut with an opening set high on melancholy, reverb-heavy guitar lines, and sunny West Coast longing, led by Williams’ friend Bethany Cosentino. Like Williams, Cosentino demonstrated strength and what the Spice Girls called “girl power” without having to advertise it.
Yes, the backing musicians were men, but could have as easily been women. For those who still criticize feminism as “man hating,” that’s no longer the case (as if it ever was). Cosentino can sing “I wish you were my boyfriend” while still reveling in her independence. It’s that mix of confidence and vulnerability that the girls in the audience cling to.
In fact, the strangest, funniest moment came right before Paramore hit the stage as the crowd sang in unison, dancing with enthusiasm to the piped-in, pre-recorded strains of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.” In contrast, the beachy Best Coast took the stage to the blistering distortion of Metallica.
While Best Coast gave a more subdued, moodier performance in a cloud of stage smoke and colorful psychedelic lights, Paramore’s set was as bright and electric as its show (or the ’80s hue of its latest album, “After Laughter”). The group blasted through “Brick By Boring Brick” and “That’s What You Get” beneath a giant slanted bullseye of dancing lights and screens that swirled with colorful graphics and occasionally lit up the audience like the sun.
Both front women made pleas for understanding and kindness, a simple request that addressed everything from racial tension to bullying. Williams commemorated the anniversary of Sept. 11 before introducing “Hate to See Your Heart Break,” adding, “The world has lost its mind, but the thing that hasn’t changed is the choices. Choices are what got us to this stage tonight. Remember: Your choices matter, and the way you treat people matters.”