Unstoppable, Paramore Decade-Hops into New Chapter at ACL Fest

With a PinkPantheress cameo and Flea birthday tribute

Photo by Gary Miller

The semi-final hours of ACL Fest grew borderline apocalyptic as pop punk veterans Paramore took the American Express stage at 6pm sharp on Sunday. Darkened skies and swarming crowds couldn't rain on this legendary parade if they tried.

After five years on hiatus, vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro strode across the grandstand fresh-faced and bright-haired, with Williams sporting her classic fiery orange locks. The band launched its 54-minute set with Eighties-styled struggle anthem "Hard Times," a fitting track given the humid, sardine-tin state of the Zilker crowd. Hard times, indeed.

The 2017 track turned Seventies new wave as Williams smoothly segued into the chorus of Blondie's "Heart of Glass.” Decade jumping proved a common theme for the Nashville rock band as they revisited 2009 effort Brand New Eyes with growling "Brick by Boring Brick," and later tacked on Tom Tom Club and Whitney Houston renditions at the end of the pessimistically dreamy "Rose-Colored Boy." Paramore time-warped once more with favorites from 2007's Riot! and 2008 B-side "I Caught Myself" before arriving in the quasi-present – bearing sparkly, sad pop gifts from their latest album, After Laughter.

Photo by Gary Miller

When Williams commanded "sing it!" during the twinkling synth-rock sway of Laughter cut "Pool," the Paramore crowd awkwardly mumbled guesses of the lyrics. The petite frontwoman didn’t lose footing, praising the Zilker pack anyways before sipping from her sticker-free white Hydro Flask and reminding everyone to stay hydrated. Picking back up, fest-goers erupted into a state of chaos when the opening notes of "Misery Business" crackled through the air, bodies falling and beverage cans flying.

Not-so-golden hour reached a peak when everyone bellowed the infamous "whoaaaa" and out-sung Williams during the 2007 punk confessional. Full of surprises, Hayley Williams invited fellow fest performer PinkPantheress to sing the bridge, a feat often reserved for someone in the crowd during the infamous track. Teary-eyed and barefoot (she said her shoes hurt), the young British artist lived out the dreams of many as she hugged and sang alongside her idol, before scurrying off stage.

The frenzied house-party energy continued with 2013 soul-pop hit "Ain't It Fun." AmEx onlookers grooved and cheered while Williams and the gang tossed their hair and sprinkled spontaneous melodies into the second-loudest number of the night. The singer’s face lit up with shock for the umpteenth time as everyone screamed back her words. Hopping on a monitor to dance the song to a close, Williams never missed a beat, or an opportunity to flaunt her impressive vocal range.

One song to go, Williams paused to address the Sunday birthday of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. She shared hopes for Paramore to stick around as long as the 1983-launched rock elders playing next on the AmEx stage: "They found a way to stick together, and nobody knows more than us how fucking hard that is." On the spot, Williams sang a birthday wish to the now-60-year-old four-string legend with a jaw-dropping, multiple-octave silly a capella – also adding: "I've loved you since I was eight years old, and it was really inappropriate.”

Post-punk flair even weaseled its way into the night with closer and latest single "This Is Why," turning a new page for the virtuosic trio’s upcoming new record. Fans recited every breathy complaint of the song, released less than three weeks ago, like it had been around for years. If the crowd’s final roar, as Williams confidently shouted her last "why," was any indicator – the unstoppable bandleader may very well achieve her multi-decade Chili Peppers wish.

Photo by Gary Miller
Photo by Gary Miller

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ACL Fest 2022, Paramore, Hayley Williams, Zac Farro, Taylor York, ACL Festival 2022

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