We're diving into some of the very best Paramore songs live, the Hayley Williams fronted rockers who stole our hearts from Misery Business onwards.
With the band currently touring their latest album, This Is Why, shaky clips of Paramore songs from each night, city and festival are flooding my Instagram explore page and I welcome them with open eyes and ears.
Read all the latest features, columns and more here.
For the past 15 years, Paramore have made it clear that they at their best when performing live, and they have only gotten better with time. Stripped back or going full pedal to the metal, they are powerhouse performers and the professionalism with which they take to the stage leaves room for them to thrive in the unpredictable.
Please enjoy, in no particular order, Paramore’s top 10 live performances whereby unpredictability looks like power outages, an audience member wearing a dinosaur costume, a Drake cover and a mash-up or two. It’s delicious.
Passionfruit – Drake
Performed on the After Laughter promotional circuit in 2017, Paramore’s rendition of Drake’s “Passionfruit” was an oh so smooth, groovy, passionfruit smoothie. With an R&B foundation, this was far from an obvious cover for the band, but delightfully highlighted Paramore’s versatility, nevertheless. An ethos and sound that very much aligned with After Laughter. Paramore’s interpretation of “Passionfruit” cloaked the song in melancholy and crowned it with synchronicity, drawing emphasis to just how seasoned these professionals are and how that is relayed beyond their own originals.
That’s What You Get – 2013
Hayley Williams, Taylor York and Justin York are at their best in this stripped back version of “That’s What You Get” performed in 2013. Williams leads the trio while effortlessly navigating the soaring vocal range of the song and engaging effectively with the smaller audience. The York brothers leave no space to miss the original, especially with Justin York providing seamless backing vocals and embroidering the performance with satisfying harmonies. In the era of Self-Titled, a minimalistic performance like this has the potential to appear lacklustre, however the virtuosity and energy rival the studio version.
Now – 2013
Paramore slam out of the gate with their performance of Now at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2013. On the album, the song is inherently anthemic and honestly, I didn’t think it could get much bigger than the studio version. I was wrong. Somehow every instrument is featured all at once and manages to do so without having an overwhelmingly clashing effect. By contrast, the song is only further empowered. Notably, I would like to draw your attention to Taylor York jumping on percussion for all of two seconds at 2:03 and absolutely killing it. Paramore is on fire. So much so, that this performance will be permanently burned into your brain and you will never listen to the song the same again.
Ain’t It Fun – 2017
It is simply not possible to suppress a smile when watching this performance of “Ain’t It Fun”. It has all of the anchoring attributes of the studio version, while also being richly enhanced by colour-blocked boiler suits, Williams’ impressive vocal runs and some tight, tight drums – thank you and welcome back, Mr Zac Farro. Whilst there are certainly more adventurous renditions of the song out there, the band’s authority over the stage, instruments and audience alike is unwavering and ultimately, no moment is wasted.
Hard Times – 2018
This performance takes the cake as a personal favourite. Williams’ charismatic vocal flourishes and dance moves, York jumping on the mic, Farro’s vivacious drumming and an audience member dressed as a dinosaur. Oh, and a jaw-dropping mash-up with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” to close the performance. This is the happiest, sad song I’ve ever heard and one of the few bootleg recordings where you don’t mind a little camera shake or an oddly timed pan to the audience. It’s that good.
The dance party starts at 1:17.
For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic – 2014
This 2014 execution of Paramore’s 2007 track puts the spotlight on not only the band’s skill, but their electric presence as performers. The insane energy radiated from all band members and also highlighted how they scaled their performance for a larger audience. With or without the big screen, you couldn’t miss them. The performance is also strikingly raw with Williams, York and Davis running, jumping and skipping across the stage. This ultimately prompts further respect, particularly given the level to which they play their instruments with unwavering prowess.
The Only Exception – 2014
This performance of “The Only Exception” highlights just how “live” live performances are. No working sound system and yet Paramore managed to actualise one of their most impactful performances. Legs dangling off the side of the stage and lyrics battling with laughter, Paramore kept the audience extremely engaged and even momentarily employed them as back-up singers and the lighting crew. While it may not be the “perfect” performance, it emphasises the band’s adaptability and their determination to deliver for the audience.
Let the Flames Begin – 2018
I did not expect a leading performance of “Let the Flames Begin” to have occurred at the 2018 Parahoy show, but alas here we are having arrived at a five-minute sound explosion. The rendition was performed with the same grit and energy as it would have been ten years earlier and everyone in the vicinity can either be seen or heard letting loose. Justin York’s guitar solo is also a certified head-banger, serving as the perfect intro to the perfect outro whereby Williams executes with an unmatched tenacity.
In the Mourning/Landslide – 2011
Paramore’s 2011 performance of “In the Mourning”, followed by the Fleetwood Mac, folk-rock, phenomenon that is “Landslide”, is the sonic equivalent to a cup of tea and a hug. Williams’ slightly raspy vocals add an extra layer to the minimalistic mash-up and York’s solo accompaniment is the perfect addition. The smooth transition between songs also highlights the fact that Paramore clearly do not suffer from a lack of ambidexterity when it comes to genres and despite being most commonly associated with the Alternative/Indie Rock and Pop-Punk bracket, especially at this time, they welcomed the crossover.
Last Hope – 2014
This is a special one. In Spanish, the word “duende” refers to a heightened state of emotion created by a moving piece of art. This performance is that moving piece of art. Williams’ lyrics and connection to the audience cut right to the core and the steady build of the song allows time for the audience to be fully immersed in the moment. Davis’ bass guitar rumbles, underpinning the song without fault and Williams jumping on keys is a unique touch adding to the noteworthy performance.
Listen to more Paramore songs here.