To play arenas, bands know they have to become bigger versions of themselves: more flashing lights, more thumping bass, more rock, more roll. The formula was on display Tuesday night as Paramore got their “Self-titled” tour kicked off at KeyArena.
The former home to the Sonics was about half full when opener Hellogoodbye tried out some new songs and more fans trickled in as Metric (led by frontwoman Emily Haines, clad in a gold-fringed leather jacket and black leather pants) raced through a strikingly short set.
By the time Paramore rumbled onto the stage with a muddled version of “Grow Up,” the arena felt full even if it was far from a sellout.
Paramore actually put on a pretty entertaining show. Singer Hayley Williams, rocking a bright orange 1920’s-style bob and skintight latex pants, looked like a cross between Lelu from “The Fifth Element” and Miley Cyrus and bounced around the stage with relentless energy. Though it’s hard to believe, Williams has been doing this for nearly a decade, and it showed with her well-honed moves and more importantly with her impressive vocals.
Williams led her bandmates through several cuts off their self-titled album released earlier this year, including “Fast In My Car,” “Daydreaming” (seemingly written after an M83 binge) and the tidal bass of “Now.”
The also band made sure to appease longtime fans and revisited some older favorites off of their breakout 2007 album “Riot!”, such as “That’s What You Get” and “crushcrushcrush,” as well as their hit “Misery Business,” which closed their main set.
The few fans not glued to their cell phones recording and broadcasting the event for posterity might have noticed something distressing amid the strobing lights and artificial smoke, namely that Paramore was giving a game effort but they just didn’t sound that good. It might be folly to complain about the sound quality of an arena show; after all, arenas and football stadiums rank among the most depressing places on Earth to see live music.
Even with that in mind, the sound quality was abnormally bad (and also plagued Hellogoodbye and Metric) and the PA system managed the dubious feat of sounding muddy and harsh at the same time. Guitars got swallowed up in a wash of thudding bass, leaving Williams to carry the melody alone. Songs like “Daydreaming,” which introduced some new-found and welcome complexity to Paramore’s sound, were given no room to breathe and therefore could offer no revelatory moments.
Paramore was at its best in the quieter moments, like when Williams cleverly interspersed Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” into “In The Morning,” a song written in the wake of founding members Josh and Zac Farro quitting the band.
Complaining about what the band sounded like is kind of a moot point since no one was at KeyArena to listen to Paramore. Instead, they were there to rock out with Paramore and to that end the band came through in spades. That the show wasn’t particularly memorable hardly matters.
After all, there will be plenty of Instagram videos to look at later.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails