Paramore bring catharsis, collective mourning and giddy joy to London’s O2

“This is the year of reclaiming shit that should be yours,” declares Hayley Williams onstage at London’s O2 Arena.

She’s talking specifically about “sappy little number” ‘The Only Exception’, which has only just returned to the setlist after an absence of over seven years due to it being written about a shitty ex, but this new era of Paramore is driven by that sense of taking back control. “This year is about not giving all your power away,” she adds. 

From the very beginning, Paramore have been out to prove something. From wanting to make it outside of their hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, to needing to show their was life beyond generation-defining anthem ‘Misery Business’ and the various line-up changes that followed, every album has seen Paramore fighting back. Even the joyous ‘80s pop escape of ‘After Laughter’ saw the band do battle with their own well-being.

Photo credit: Zachary Gray

After a four-year break and a much-needed shift in the larger conversation about that noughties punk scene in general, Paramore returned in 2022 more adored than ever. Rather than a messy history, they’ve now got a legacy. Sixth album ‘This Is Why’ is a celebration of that. Across the record, there are nods to the disco-rock bands that first inspired them (Bloc Party, Foals) while the angst of their breakthrough anthems has returned, as furious as ever.

Tonight’s gig sees Paramore come back to The O2 as “grown-ass people” and celebrate nearly two-decades together. “There are moments I know Taylor, Zac and I would do all over again,” says Hayley. “There are moments where I’m so glad we’re passed that shit. It’s finally somewhat peaceful,” she says, adding that “life is somewhat insane” outside these walls.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous we’re still here,” says Hayley later in the night. “It’s crazy that we’re still a band,” she continues, joking that they’ve nearly broken up 1000s of times. Elsewhere she thanks the audience for “letting us try whatever the fuck we wanted with each album,” but despite the gratitude, Paramore aren’t here to appease anyone.

The whole show is defiant and unapologetic. There’s space in the 100-minute set for Hayley to perform solo number ‘Crystal Clear’ with the rest of the band, while Zac Farro tests out unreleased Halfnoise track ‘Baby’ on the sold-out arena. Moody, introspective tracks like ‘Liar’ and ‘Last Hope’ sit comfortably next to sweeping, joyful anthems like ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Ain’t It Fun’. Even ‘Misery Business’ is purposefully introduced by Hayley saying, “let’s just do it”.

Theatrical classics like ‘Decode’, ‘All I Wanted’ and ‘Playing God’ create emotional highs throughout the night but it’s the spiky, visceral tracks from ‘This Is Why’ that showcase Paramore’s playful freedom best. 

Opener ‘You First’ is a barbed revenge anthem, sung by an anti-hero that concludes with so much confetti, a stagehand dual-wields leaf-blowers to try and clear the stage. ‘The News’ wrestles with complicated feelings of community, outrage, fear and hurt, leading to a rebellious few minutes of joy while ‘Crave’ clears a space in the noise. “Just for a second, it all felt simple,” sings Hayley, looking out at the crowd.

“Was it everything you needed,” Hayley asks towards the end of a set that’s offered catharsis, collective mourning and giddy joy. “Same.”