This is a little unfair, but for a hot minute there, it looked like the most exciting part of last night's Paramore show at The Ryman was going to be the moment Taylor Swift walked--no, strode--across the front row of the balcony, sending a giddy wave through the crowd and fans scrambling into the aisles, elbowing each other and hoisting their cell phones and cameras. Even the most elementary lip-reading skills could have told you that "Ohmygod Taylor Swift" was already a trending topic.
But it didn't take long for Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams to remind everyone (and their chaperones) who they had really come out to see. The Mother Church, or "the O.G. Opry," as she called it at one point, felt a bit like a regular church on youth ministry night--give or take a giant synchronized light show or two--until it erupted in screams the second Williams skipped onstage. The band came out with a burst and got a feverish response to "Ignorance" before dropping into cruise control. Drummer Zac Farro played with all the subtlety of a gorilla trying to open a suitcase full of bananas with his elbows, and bassist Jeremy Davis--the only member of the band other than Williams to engage the audience, though he never even spoke into a microphone--jumped about, now and again doing the proto-crabcore headbang dance in sync with new guy Taylor York. At times, guitarist Josh Farro looked like an unhappy statue someone had thrown a guitar on.
Williams spent much of her between-song banter talking about Nashville. She dedicated one song to all the fans who came to their early shows at The End and Exit/In. Since almost no one we could see was old enough to get into either of those clubs, the response to the local-venue shout-out was muted, to say the least. One person who was old enough, though, was the dude to our left, whose combination of bad posture and bad skin made him look like a cross between a rape-y lizard and a white version of the guy in Slumdog Millionaire who burns the little kid's eyes out with acid. Even when he was singing along to the songs he had a weird, dead look in his eyes, and he would raise his camera very, very slowly to his pocked face when taking pictures of Hayley Williams. He took a lot of pictures. It wasn't hard to imagine a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade sitting on the passenger seat of his truck. Consider us creeped the fuck out.
But anyway. For the encore, Williams came out with Josh Farro and did that thing performers do at The Ryman, playing Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough" (to Take My Man)" sans amplification at the front of the stage. The crowd couldn't make up its mind whether to return the reverence or shower their heroine with love. Throughout the song, a "Woo!" would ring out from somewhere in the auditorium, only to be answered immediately by a "Shh!" "Woo!" "Shh!" "Woo!" "Shh!" It was the most comical call-and-response we've heard at a show...maybe ever. The band kept it low-key, breaking out more acoustic guitars (but turning the P.A. back on) for a few songs, including a lovely rendition of "The Only Exception." Then it was back to bombast for "Misery Business," which was every bit as good as we were hoping it would be, and our cue to get out while the aisles were still clear.