Tour Three at Manchester Arena, 19 January

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Thousands of fans waited in nervous anticipation for Paramore’s visit to Manchester Arena during Tour Three on Friday – emotions I shared as I prepared to take my six-year-old daughter to her first real gig.

Preparations were purely psychological and involved deciding, on Wednesday, not to take her. The odds of me not losing her among 20,000 people were surely higher than the odds of hanging on to her. Would I not be better to wait until June and take her to see Katy Perry – her second favourite act after Paramore? Surely that would be more child friendly – even with the risk of squirty cream bras. There was that other nagging worry that I wasn’t saying out loud, too. This was my first trip to the Arena since horrors unfolded there in May and while, as a music fan, I agree we need to rock on, as a mother I’m programmed to keep a good six inches of cotton wool around my small humans. By Friday logic won and I handed my daughter her golden ticket.

Anxieties were alleviated on arrival. Turning up an hour after doors, we breezed in through a reassuring level of security checks and armed ourselves with a bag of candifloss and bottles of water. The best gigs always make strangers in a crowd feel like family and I definitely felt kindred with the woman dragging her small daughter to the toilet before the set, just as we were leaving it. “Hello,” she said waving. “I’m glad we’re not the only ones.”

Despite having tuned into their pop sensibilities on current album After Laughter, Paramore placated fans of their heavier material with a set from Philadelphia post-hardcore outfit mewithoutYou, whose avant-garde spoken-word vocals managed to hold the attention of the swelling crowd, even if they didn’t get the singalong that Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like A Woman did in between live sets. With the majority of our row of seats empty during the support my daughter rocked out like only an unselfconscious six year old could to a band they’ve never heard and made the row her stage. My only fear by now was early burnout.

When Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams joined mewithoutYou on stage for Fox’s Dream of a Log Flume, inexplicably pulling off half-mast camo cargo pant and spats, she proved how effortlessly she could elevate any band to star quality. “Is that Paramore?” asked my miniature companion, demonstrating what Williams seems to have been railing against since she was a 14 year old convincing Atlantic Records she was not a solo artist and that they should sign her band. In a recent Q&A with Big Issue North, Zac Farro and Taylor York demonstrated they had as much to say as Williams – even if it was subtly insisted on.

With a nod to drummer Farro’s return to the band, Williams introduced a song “about friendship”, Hate to See Your Heart Break

Joined by four session musicians, including York’s older brother Justin on guitar and backing vocals, Paramore didn’t keep fans waiting long before opening their set with single Hard Times, with a vocal mix of Heart of Glass nodding to After Laughter’s eighties synth-spiration.

When I interviewed Williams ahead of Tour Three she described her discomfort with some of Paramore’s older material and the show stayed on message – Paramore have grown up, don’t ask them to be who they were 15 years ago. A handful of hits from past records were seamlessly sprinkled throughout a set focused on their new material. During an energetic first half with tracks such as most recent single Fake Happy and old favourites like Ignorance, Williams captivated fans with her punk aerobics moves before bringing the tone round to a more contemplative one. With a nod to drummer Farro’s return to the band, she introduced a song “about friendship”, Hate to See Your Heart Break. In awe, my six year old took to her seat and joined thousands of others in waving torches and I was reminded that Paramore are a whole lot more wholesome than the big pop acts that still play for the male gaze even when it’s six-year-old girls that are watching.

Two chairs were brought to the front of the stage for the next song, a special addition to the set for Manchester, which Williams said is the band’s favourite UK city. Admirably Williams spoke of the Arena attack – describing how gigs had always been supportive environments for the band growing up and pointing out how they should be safe spaces before singing 26’s apt lyrics – “Hold on to hope if you got it” – along to Taylor York’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar.

York’s talent shone too when mewithoutYou frontman Aaron Weiss joined the band on stage. Giving her high-kicking legs a rest, Williams lay on the stage while York seemed to revel in trading the poptimistic sounds for a scuzzier guitar riff.

By the time the band launched into Misery Business the loyal crowd had recovered its energy levels and was back on form. The track, which my six year old will tell you is about a “mean girl”, is one the band seem to want to distance themselves from but that the fans – three of whom were invited on stage for the bridge in Miz Biz tradition – still revel in.

I’ll bargain I might have accompanied Paramore’s youngest gig goer but we were in good company with fans of all ages. It’s clear the band are gaining a new fanbase with this album but hearing new and old material together highlighted that this is evolution, not reinvention.

You can buy a copy of the issue containing our interview with Hayley Williams from

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