Paramore Taps Into Its Punk Rock Past for Spirited Show at Akron Civic Theatre

Even though she’s only 28 years old, singer Hayley Williams has logged some serious hours touring and recording with Paramore, the alternative rock band she fronts. That’s because Williams formed the band when she was still a teenager. She wasn’t even 21 when the group came through town in the mid-‘00s to play a heavily hyped show at the Agora Ballroom.

All those years of experience have certainly paid off.

Williams has become a commanding front person and significant pop star as the band has evolved from playing emo-that-borders-on-screamo to embracing the ’80s New Wave-inspired grooves (think Blondie and/or Talking Heads) found on its latest album, After Laughter.

For last night’s spirited performance in front of a sold out crowd at Akron Civic Theatre, Williams and Co. tapped into their punk rock past to deliver an engaging show that even managed to expertly blend the harsher songs from the band’s past with the more melodic After Laughter tunes.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

At the start of the 90-minute concert, Williams, decked out in sneakers and loose fitting white jumpsuit that made it easy for her to gallop across the stage and hop atop speaker monitors, stood in front Zac Farro’s drum kit with her back to the audience. She let him begin hammering out the propulsive beats of the set’s opening tune, “Hard Times,” and simply took it in, dancing in rhythm with the music before turning to face the crowd.

The technique certainly worked. She picked up a bullhorn for the hard-driving “Ignorance” and had audience members clapping in unison to “Daydreaming,” a catchy pop number that the band performed underneath swirling purple lights. The stage included a giant awning that doubled as a lighting rig and projection screen. Vibrant video treatments featuring bright red, yellow and blue lights would accompany many of the songs — the colors often resembled those on the old electronic memory toy Simon.

Accompanied by a few extra instrumentalists, Paramore added some heavy percussion to “Forgiveness” and delivered “Hate to See Your Heart Break” with layers of retro sounding synthesizers. Williams introduced the ballad “26” by  talking about the “crap in the world today” and explaining that she’s enjoyed touring and getting to “meet people and sing with [them] and dance with [them] and have a damn good time.”

With its percolating synthesizers and percussion, “Told You So” sounded like something Tom Tom Club might have recorded back in the day. It segued nicely into a cover of the Fleetwood Mac tune “Everywhere,” arguably one of the classic rock band’s most saccharine tunes, but a tune that matched up well with the After Laughter songs.

“Fake Happy” benefited from a funky guitar riff, and Williams introduced “Misery Business,” a hit from 2007’s Riot!, by talking about how Hot Topic retail stores helped push the band back in the day. “[Hot Topic] ain’t what it used to be,” she proclaimed. “R.I.P. Hot Topic.”

A soulful vocal performance distinguished the set-closing “Ain’t It Fun,” and the band would return for an encore that included “Caught in the Middle” and “Scooby’s in the Back,” a tune by Farro’s band HalfNoise that found the drummer taking over lead vocal duties. The group would again draw from After Laughter with the rousing “Rose-Colored Boy,” an appropriate show closer.

Indie rockers Best Coast, a self described group of "freaks" out of Los Angeles, opened with a 30-minute set of shoe-gazer-inspired dream pop. Despite playing on a dimly lit stage, the band still generated a good response from the crowd, in part because singer Bethany Cosentino graciously thanked fans for showing up to hear the band's set. It helped that songs such as the Breeders-like "Feeling Ok" featured brittle guitar riffs and tempered bursts of hot white noise.