The pop-punk powerhouse is finally returning Down Under – here’s one oft-forgotten song from each other albums that we think deserve to shine in the setlists.
Nearly six years on from their last visit, Paramore are heading Down Under for a five-date arena tour this November. Supported by buzzy soul-pop stalwart Remi Wolf (whose recent debut album, Juno, is bloody fantastic), the trek will take Hayley Williams and co. to enormous arena stages in Meanjin/Brisbane, Eora/Sydney and Naarm/Melbourne, where they’ll showcase classics and cuts from their just-released sixth album, This Is Why.
Want to head along? Well, tickets are completely sold out, but you can head here to sign up to a mailing list for news on potential ticket releases (and, pray tell, additional shows?).
Looking at the setlists for their recent shows across the US, we’re more than confident that when Paramore take to our stages in November, they’ll be doing so with some of their best performances yet. But with another ten new songs in their arsenal, the band’s setlists are starting to face a common problem for touring acts with ever-growing catalogues: they have dozens of fantastic great songs to play, and not nearly enough time to play them all. Until they go full Springsteen and start playing four-hour sets, Paramore have to be studious about their running orders – and not everyone will be happy with the songs they choose.
The band’s discography is impressively broad: they’ve released 71 songs across their six studio albums, plus another dozen or so between standalone single releases, deluxe album reissues, and other errant little bits and pieces from throughout the years. A good handful of these songs have made it to ‘staple’ status in Paramore’s setlists – they’re unlikely to go a night without playing Misery Business, Ain’t It Fun or The Only Exception, for example – but inversely, a good handful have been left out in the dust, either not being played at all for years on end, or never being played at all. Deep cuts.
As we continue to hype ourselves up for Paramore’s long-awaited return to Australia, we’ve mined through their six albums to find one deep cut from each that we sincerely believe needs to be a part of the setlist. For the sake of our own sanities, we’ve steered clear of those songs that don’t appear on the standard editions of Paramore’s six albums. We’ve also forced ourselves to stick to one song per album – because let’s be real, if it were up to us, the band would just strap us in for the night of our lives and play their full 100-plus-song catalogue from start to finish.
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Paramore seemingly came out of nowhere in 2004, bursting onto the burgeoning Hot Topic-core scene with backing from Atlantic Records and Fueled By Ramen, massive tour spots and a minor hit in Pressure. They were the OG pop-punk “industry plant” – an accusation rooted deeply in misogyny, as proved by all the reprehensible shit Williams put up with in those early years – but upon listening to their debut album, 2005’s All We Know Is Falling, it was hard to keep those rumours alive. The ten-track showed that Paramore was legitimately just a great band, with great songs performed by great musicians. And an easy highlight from All We Know Is Falling is its third track, the punchy and propulsive Emergency.
Starting off with a lowkey, cleanly noodled riff drawing clear influence from second-wave emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Farro quickly snaps us into a driving lead guitar part that makes it crystal clear: this ain’t no twangy sadboy song. Williams’ first lines are deceptively restrained – “I think we have an emergency,” she sings twice, plainly, over another take of the noodly riff from the start (albeit now drenched in electric distortion), before immediately jumping into chaos mode with the passionately yelled line, “If you thought I'd leave, then you were wrong / ‘Cause I won't stop holding on.” She oscillates between those two extremes, from calm to convulsive and back again, across all of the verses, making every line stick like gum to pavement.
That alone is exhilarating, but its the belting chorus, perfectly primed for singalongs, that makes Emergency a concert classic: “‘Cause I've seen love die / Way too many times / When it deserved to be alive / And I've seen you cry / Way too many times / When you deserved to be alive.” It’s emotive and impactful, angsty and cutting in the unique way only Williams has ever managed to master. It is the peak of Paramore’s formative era, and yet it hasn’t been performed live since 2016. That performance, too, was a one-off: a rarity pulled out from the archives for that year’s Parahoy! cruise. Bar the occasional run in 2014, Emergency was phased out from the regular rotation in 2011. And it’s a damn shame, because Emergency isn’t just the best song on All We Know Is Falling, it’s one of the best songs in Paramore’s entire discography. It’s high time we demand its return to the setlist.
Paramore’s second album, 2007’s career-defining RIOT!, was an ambitious departure from their debut, subbing out the emo and post-hardcore influences for more biting punk and alt-rock flavours (though When It Rains is phenomenal for how it channels those earlier sounds). The album is stacked from top to bottom with songs that fans could not have predicted the Paramore of 2005 writing, but none are quite as ambitious as Fences, a smoky jaunt about being swept up in and beaten down by the hellishness of the music industry. “It’s obvious that you’re dying,” Williams quips snarkily in the chorus, presumably aimed at a funhouse-mirror caricature of herself, “Just living proof that the camera's lying / And oh, oh, open wide / ‘Cause this is your night / So smile / ‘Cause you'll go out in style.”
Musically too, it’s a great example of how Paramore will sometimes draw influence from their direct contemporaries – here, they channel the headstrong pomp and theatrical edge of Panic! At The Disco’s 2005 debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, with Williams’ lyrical delivery drawing comparisons to the 12th track on that album (There’s A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet) and the bouncy, faux-flamenco acoustic strumming – coupled with buoyant, yet understated percussion – echoing the song before it (I Constantly Thank God For Esteban). That’s not to say it’s derivative, of course: one of Paramore’s biggest collective talents is taking an influence and making its sound entirely their own.
Australians have heard Paramore play Fences live once before, when it was featured in – and fast became a standout of – their Soundwave 2013 setlists. Having been there for that life-affirming moment, we can say with confidence that Fences works incredibly well as a live song, adding the much-welcomed balance of tang and spice that no other song in Paramore’s catalogue offers. The last time it ever popped up in a setlist was April 2013 – just a month after those Soundwave gigs – and it’s laid depressingly dormant ever since. That needs to change. And where better to bring it back than some of the cities it was last celebrated in?
Aged 20, four years into her tenure with Paramore, the Hayley Williams of 2009 was veritably teeming with pent-up angst. That was all exhumed on Brand New Eyes, the band’s stellar third album, which arrived that September to impressively decent reviews; Paramore had never really been “critical darlings” up to that point – both their first two albums came to a cumulative 67/100 on Metacritic – but Brand New Eyes signalled a major shift in the mainstream consensus. Critics who’d long shrugged Paramore off were suddenly swooning, and it was all thanks to this record of fired-up rock anthems (with a few touching ballads for good measure).
Feeling Sorry is one of the most pointed songs on the 11-track effort, as Williams sings on its chorus without a hint of repentance: “I feel no sympathy / You live inside a cave / You barely get by, the rest of us are trying / There’s no need to apologise / I’ve got no time for feeling sorry.” It’s about refusing to coddle someone who won’t put the work in to better themselves, and this theme – one of defiant self-preservation and empowerment – is one that Williams has since continued to mine, both through Paramore’s output and her two phenomenal solo efforts (2020’s Petals For Armor and the following year’s Flowers For Vases/Descansos).
From a lyrical standpoint, Feeling Sorry would slot in comfortably alongside This Is Why cuts like You First and Big Man, Little Dignity. Musically though, it hints at Paramore’s formative emo influences and balances its angst with cinematic spirit – the verses feel sharp, the bridge is emotive, and then the chorus soars with an almost triumphant energy. Just thinking about how that would translate to the stage, we’ve got goosebumps.
As a whole, though, Brand New Eyes is severely underloved in Paramore’s current set. So far this year, they’ve only played Brick By Boring Brick one (1) time, and iconic tracks like Ignorance and Careful have been largely snubbed as well. The best song on the record, Playing God, has thankfully remained a staple – but nevertheless justice for Brand New Eyes must be served!
Paramore’s self-titled 2013 album – a “comeback” of sorts, chronicling the band’s bounding-back in the wake of their messy split from Josh and Zac Farro (the latter of whom, of course, would re-join in 2017) three years earlier – is an ambitious body of work, and very deliberately so: not only did the band need to prove they could still write and produce solid work without the Farros (Josh, who played guitar, was a primary songwriter on the first three LPs) but they needed to break away from the pop-punk sound that defined their catalogue thus far, lest they jump the shark. Consider the pressure they had to do that authentically, while retaining their core pop-punk fanbase and opening themselves up to a new swathe of listeners: Paramore did not have an easy task ahead of them.
So over 17 tracks, the self-titled album covers an incredible wealth of musical ground, from bubblegum pop to prog-rock, folk and, yes, a little bit of pop-punk for good measure. One of the standout tracks is one of the record’s most experimental: a punchy and punky, short ’n’ sweet jam called Anklebiters. It’s the “heaviest” song on Paramore with its crunched-out guitars and thrashing drums (sweetened with glockenspiel taps and a super gooey hook), over which Williams spits freely about the importance of embracing one’s independence: “Someday you're gonna be the only one you've got / Why you wanna please the world and leave yourself to drop dead?”
This theme has remained pivotal to Paramore’s output over the decade that’s come since – many of the songs on This Is Why are about forging ahead in spite of personal turbulence – and its blistering energy makes Anklebiters an effortless choice for a song that’s sure to get bodies moving. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, the band have only played it live 32 times, all of which being in 2013. That absolutely needs to change in 2013, not only because it would gel perfectly alongside This Is Why cuts like You First and The News, but also because it would offer a seamless transition from the poppier moments of Paramore’s post-split output to the heavier moments of their earlier works... And it’s just a fucking great song, period.
After Laughter is a bit of an outlier in Paramore’s discography – building on the groovier stylings of the self-titled album with sharp lefts turn into synthpop and indie – particularly since This Is Why sees them swing back to a lot of the rock-leaning songwriting and analogue production of their earlier works. But Paramore’s 2017 album is fantastic album nonetheless (in this writer’s personal opinion, it’s the trio’s best album) and so many of the songs on it deserve to remain in the spotlight. Idle Worship is one of those – though it never really spent much time in that spotlight to begin with.
Paramore have played the track – a wobbly, angst-tinged pop jaunt about Williams’ internal conflict with the struggles of being a “perfect role model” – a total of 47 times, all in 2018, and all accompanied by No Friend, the track that follows it on After Laughter. It’s an “outro” of sorts (even though it’s longer than Idle Worship, clocking in at 3:24 vs 3:18), with the instrumental groove droning as it progresses into a fizzy, reverb-drenched wash-out, with Williams’ vocals subbed out for a biting spoken-word piece by MewithoutYou frontman Aaron Weiss (a close friend of Williams’ and an occasional collaborator through various other projects across the years).
Idle Worship itself is interesting for how it presents a side of Williams often shied away from in her songwriting: one she’d long been scared to let free, expressing her concerns on a subject that directly affects her relationship with her – and by proxy Paramore’s – fans. It’s also another song that, like Fences, draws a clear influence from one of Paramore’s contemporaries, this time being Twenty One Pilots. The faux-retro groove and warbling synth lead on the track echoes some of the instrumental quirks heard on the latter band’s first two albums, Vessel (2013) and Blurryface (2015) – while Williams’ blunt, beat-hopping vocalisations feel very similar to the way Tyler Joseph sings on TØP tracks like Fake You Out and Tear In My Heart.
Both musically and lyrically, Idle Worship and No Friend show how Paramore were keen to push themselves into unpredictable new territory on After Laughter. And both tracks (which are virtually inseparable) fit wonderfully alongside some of the tracks on This Is Why – they’ve got the same kind of vocal pomp as C’est Comme Ça with the musical bite of the title track and Running Out Of Time. Put them in the goddamn setlist, guys.
Okay, so Thick Skull technically can’t be a “deep cut” because This Is Why has only been out for a little over four months, and Paramore are still on their first leg of touring in support of it – so there’s every chance Thick Skull will eventually make it onto the setlist… But it’s weird that it hasn’t already, isn’t it?
The track simmers and swells with genuine emotion, burning slowly from pensive balladry into its eruptive and cinematic climax. It’s the perfect ending to the journey we’re taken on across This Is Why, embracing the moodier and more mature side of the trio’s songwriting – showing off just how much they’ve grown not just over the past 19 years, but in the six between After Laughter and this record – while reminding us of their keen ear for grandeur. There’s a fire in Williams’ voice when she commands us to “keep on”, and a sinister edge to her softer pleas to “come on out with your hands up”. Farro’s drumming is intensely captivating, especially in the final chorus, and York’s fretwork throughout is some of his all-time tightest.
The encore is a staple of Paramore’s headline set, and Thick Skull offers them a brilliant opportunity to utilise this. Picture it: at the end of an kaleidoscopic set that ebbs and flows in mood and visits every corner of their catalogue, Paramore wind it all down and “finish” with Thick Skull, bringing the atmosphere they conjure up to its emotional peak. And then they disappear from the stage, leaving us with a wealth of emotions but nowhere to exert them. We’re antsy. We’re uneasy. We’re looking around at our friends and partners like something is instinctively wrong but we can’t figure out what.
The final moments of the show were slow and meditative, but they’ve left us feeling like we need to explode. Suddenly, there it is: Paramore race back out and play their two biggest hits – Misery Business and Ain’t It Fun – and the title track from This Is Why to send us off with one last euphoric blast of energy. And it’s exactly that: euphoric. Thanks in no short part to Thick Skull giving us the dazzling cliffhanger ending only Paramore could pull off in earnest.
with special guest REMI WOLF
Wednesday November 22 – Meanjin/Brisbane, Entertainment Centre
Thursday November 23 – Meanjin/Brisbane, Entertainment Centre
Saturday November 25 – Eora/Sydney, The Domain
Monday November 27 – Naarm/Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
Tuesday November 28 – Naarm/Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena