They came early, and in droves. The metro’s hippest—mostly girls in their late teens and early 20s—set abuzz the outside of SM Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night with giddy squealing and breathless chatter, before filing for Paramore’s second concert here, which the United States band dubbed “Para-Thrilla in Manila II.”
The girls looked like they just stepped out of a pop-punk music video—printed shirts, tanks, skinny jeans, studded jackets, neon sneakers. There were also the die-hards, who had gone the extra mile to pay homage to Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams by dyeing their hair a bright red.
Save for patches of empty seats at the lower box area, the stadium was packed to near capacity. Front act mewithoutYou was met with wild approval as it launched into a set of indie rock. And that was just a warmup.
After a lengthy sound check, the Arena was enveloped in darkness, which stoked the mounting anticipation. Not a few started shrieking again; many held up phones and cameras up, ready for whatever would happen next. When the lights went back on, an eruption of wailing and roars ensued.
Smack at center stage, facing the backdrop, right fist raised, was the woman everyone was dying to see. With the band’s first salvo of guitars and drums, Hayley swayed her hips and twirled around a couple of times before opening with “Now,” the catchy second track of their latest album, “Paramore.”
Hayley was comfortably garbed in black pants and a black tank with the sides cut out.
We were seated quite far back, but it’s impossible not to make out Hayley’s flaming mop of hair, flying every which way as she worked the stage. From the get-go, it was obvious that the 24-year-old was one heck of a firecracker. She stomped, jumped and darted across the stage; thrust her hips, lifted the mic stand and banged her head in cadence with the slow pounding of drums; knelt, crawled and sang lying flat on her back. She was alternately rough and kickin’, smooth and sassy.
Backed up steadily by bassist Jeremy, guitarist Taylor York, and three touring musicians, Hayley threw herself into the next song, “That’s What You Get”—arguably the band’s most popular hit. Thus, it turned the patron-section crowd into a sea of pumping fists and elicited the most enthusiastic sing-along of the evening.
That was just their second show this year, and Paramore was determined to prove that they can still rock hard despite the departure of two former members, brothers Josh and Zac Farro in 2010, following personal and professional disputes. “We’ve been through a lot these past two years… but we made it through,” Hayley said. “We can’t be more grateful for what we have. To be able to play music every night is so cool.”
And they did just that for about two hours. Hayley belted out one crowd favorite after another—“Born for This,” “Pessimist,” “Renegade,” “Decode,” “Pressure”… The 18-song set leaned
toward grumbling, emo pop-punk ditties that were starting to sound repetitive when, thankfully, the fun and cabaret-vibed “Fences” came on.
An exceptional vocalist, Hayley sounded great live as she does on record. In heavier, more demanding songs, her chest voice was strong, its tone bright and youthful. When she tackled intimate and sensitive songs, such as “In the Morning” and “The Only Exception,” her voice turned vulnerable and sweet, with hints of country. All the while, cell phone lights fluttered in the dark like fireflies.
Hayley and the gang exited after “Brick by Boring Brick,” prompting the fans to start chanting “More! More!” for an encore. Presently, Hayley returned on stage and obliged with “Hello Cold World” and “Misery Business.” For this last number, Hayley asked one lucky fan named Vanessa to jam and rock with her on stage. Beside us, a group of young girls no older than 15 swooned and screamed, “Why not us?!”
By way of saying goodbye, Hayley told her her fans: “Please know that you’re so important… don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re not. You have changed our lives. You matter so much to us. When you exit the doors tonight, please remember that.”