“Welcome to the family,” singer Hayley Williams told the crowd at a packed Capital One Arena Friday night. The trio of Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro are in the midst of a World Tour to promote their sixth studio album, This Is Why. Over the span of two decades this band has honed one of the most exciting live shows around. So, it’s no surprise fans lined up around the block to witness a band that inspired a host of musicians from Olivia Rodrigo to Snail Mail.
I had not seen Paramore live before, but like all good word-of-mouth tips, I had an inkling of what was ahead. But I don’t think I was prepared for how Williams and company could make even a casual listener feel like, well, one of the family, at Capital One Arena on June 2.
Hitting the stage with “You First,” Paramore jumped feet first into it as everyone in the arena sang along while confetti cannons popped. But what got every screaming was their hit, “That’s What You Get,” as the place was deafening with the sound as Williams danced from one side of the stage to the next.
From the get-go it felt like being a part of something. There was the “crowd participation” with half the audience singing “Low key, no pressure” while the other side sang “Just hang with me and my weather” on the groove-oriented “Rose-Colored Boy.” And everyone holding up their pinkies during “Last Hope.” “Okay, DC, put your hands in the air, pinkies up! “If you know the words sing along,” Williams called out. “If you don’t, time to learn ‘em.”
And it was all pure joyous energy both on-stage and off. I saw just as many people dancing and waving in the crowd as I did on stage as Williams came to the edge of the stage to sing with fans and then dart back to the other part of the stage to rock out with the other members of Paramore.
Before starting in on “Running Out of Time,” Hayley Williams took a moment to speak to the fans. “We’ve had the privilege of growing up with so many of you. And the sweetest part of that deal is that the people who supported Paramore and listened to our music for over the past two decades those people have allowed us to grow up in front of the world -[to] make mistakes, fall down, get back up over and over again… We’re not done yet. We’re not even close to done…. and we want to thank you for supporting the new record.”
Mid-set, the light dimmed and above the main stage Hayley, Taylor, and Zac appeared on a platform under an archway suspended over the main stage. Silhouetted in front of a bright screen made for a striking scene as the trio slowed things down a notch as they played “Liar” and one of Hayley’s solo numbers, “Crystal Clear.”
“For a long time we didn’t play this next song, and that was because of me,” Williams told the crowd. “Going back and reading something in your journal that is so embarrassing because you were so convicted… and you looked back and you didn’t recognize that person.” She went on to explain that fellow bandmember, Zac Farro urged them to bring the song “The Only Exception” back into the setlist. And what happened next felt magical as the whole arena held up their phone lights as we all sang the refrain “You are the only exception” before a sheet of sparks fell over the back of the stage.
There were plenty of surprises in this set, as Zac stepped up to the mic to sing “Baby,” one the songs he released under the moniker HalfNoise. But the biggest surprise may have been when Florida congressman Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z person elected to Congress, was introduced by Williams in the middle of one of their earliest hits, “Misery Business.” “Do you want to say anything to these beautiful people?,” Williams asked. “Fuck Ron DeSantis! Fuck fascism!,” Frost responded to cheers from this diverse crowd. A clear response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill championed by DeSantis. Frost and a member of the audience who had traveled from Dubai to make the show then joined Paramore to finish the song in style as the entire arena erupted in screams.
Watch the official music video for “Running Out Of Time” by Paramore on YouTube:
“This song goes out to Paramore,” Williams told the crowd after returning to the stage for the encore. The band seemed tireless as Williams jumped onto the drum riser, singing the refrain, “I’m into you!” That sentiment was certainly reciprocated from the crowd and, it seems, from the band as they genuinely seemed to all be riding this invisible beam of light. How much energy can you have left after two hours of jumping, dancing, and spinning. And that’s all while playing instruments or focusing on what’s being sung.
Alas! All good things must come to an end, but not before Paramore sent us off with “This Is Why” from the new album. An incredible show that definitely went to 11.
Paramore continue their tour through the Summer and it’s a show to keep an eye out for.
The setlist included:
That’s What You Get
Caught in the Middle
Running Out of Time
Big Man, Little Dignity
Crystal Clear (Hayley Williams cover)
Told You So
The Only Exception
Baby (HalfNoise cover)
Ain’t It Fun
Still Into You
This Is Why
Here are more photos of Paramore performing at Capital One Arena on June 2, 2023. All photos courtesy of tour photographer, Zachary Gray.