Standing onstage last night at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, Hayley Williams told a capacity crowd that she’d been yearning for nearly a year to say the words she was about to say.
Her big reveal? “We are Paramore.”
Williams was leading the pop-punk band through its first show since last September, a sold-out warm-up gig before Paramore heads to the U.K. for a handful of dates including the Reading and Leeds festivals. And though part of her excitement was probably attributable to cabin fever – she and her bandmates have been working in a Los Angeles studio on Paramore’s fourth album – Williams also was acknowledging the break-up rumors that have swirled around the group since late 2010, when guitarist Josh Farro and drummer Zac Farro left in a storm of accusations regarding the band’s direction and authenticity.
“Our band has been a little bit of a soap opera since day one,” Williams went on. Then she introduced “Ignorance” – a cut from 2009’s Brand New Eyes about a judgmental friend (or bandmate) – as “a reminder of how it’s never, ever going to be again.”
Backed by three touring musicians on guitars, keyboards and drums, Williams, guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis used their 90-minute set to prove that all the drama hasn’t weakened Paramore’s live punch. They opened with a muscular rendition of Brand New Eyes’ “Brick by Boring Brick” and set off a sea of pumping fists in “That’s What You Get,” from 2007’s breakthrough Riot! Later, Williams whipped her bright-orange hair during Paramore’s first single, “Pressure,” which also inspired Davis to do a kind of backflip over York. After “Careful” the singer took a seat at center stage and admitted between gulps of air, “I’m 23, but it feels like I’m 63. It’s been awhile!”
Beyond the old stuff – including the Twilight hit “Decode” and “Monster,” from last year’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Paramore played three tunes recently released as part of an online singles club. “Renegade” and “Hello Cold World” hewed closely to the band’s signature sound, but the stripped-down “In the Mourning” showed off a newly soulful streak in Williams’ singing; she even threw in a bit of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” as if to indicate the maturity Paramore has come into over the last two years.
“We’re so humbled and grateful for your support,” Williams told the audience at one point in the show, and the band’s fans reaffirmed that devotion with a roar.