This review was written by our coach and co-founder, Emma Rowley.
Though this performance was given back in 2014, it will simply never age. We all know how quickly the music industry changes. Trends come and go with stage set-ups, live sound expectations, and the constantly evolving technology in production details. More often than not, "bigger is better". Here, we have Paramore giving an intimate yet electric live performance of their song "Last Hope" off their self-titled record. It is the perfect example of simply letting great music speak for itself. Watch it below and then continue reading for some performance coaching critiques based on the performance...
Hayley Williams, y'all. Need I say more? She's a powerhouse vocalist who knows the ins and outs of dynamics. Her ability to be breathy when breathy is needed and then belt her guts out when belting is needed all within the same section of a song is an ART! Williams' stage presence instantly pulls you in. No matter where you might be in the audience, you'll feel like she's singing every word right to you. Now, let's break things down...
Williams begins the song in an ultra-relaxed fashion; sitting at the piano, center stage. You can see this calm energy in her body language but also hear it in her voice. The first lyrics are so intimate, "I don't even know myself at all. I thought I would be happy by now...", it is only natural that she mostly closes her eyes as she delivers them.
Then, as she begins the first chorus section of the song, "it's just a spark but it's enough to keep me going...", the magic unfolds. Williams pulls away from the microphone enough to allow room for the crowd singing along to be heard, turns her body to fully face the audience, and opens her eyes as well as her arms with a smile on her face. This change in body language is so natural which is why it is so effective. Her engagement with the audience makes the performance truly feel like a communal experience. This is further solidified as she shouts, "Put your cell phones and lighters up high! Come on, Chicago!", and then proceeds to clap to the beat as the energy builds leading into the second verse. Prompting this kind of engagement from a crowd puts everyone at ease. We've all been packed in at concerts and experienced the awkwardness of being shoulder to shoulder with strangers. However, the test of a true performer is their ability to make that sea of strangers feel like new best friends. A seasoned artist is like a circus master; directing the beautiful chaotic energy that comes with a live performance.
Through the second verse and second chorus, Williams allows the energy in her body to let loose as she sings and plays the piano. Even as the bridge section winds us down a bit, the overall energy continues to stir until it begins to boil leading into the final chorus. Williams' soaring voice takes on more grit and edge through this section as though the emotion behind the lyrics is truly driving her performance. She stands up from the piano, removing the mic from its stand, and moves like the music is overtaking her body and soul. Just, WOW. She also points the mic out at the audience, encouraging them to sing along, which continues to draw them into the communal experience.
When the final chorus hits, Williams is back at the piano. You'd think this move back to a seated position behind an instrument after getting up and engaging with the audience at the very edges of the stage would be counterproductive, causing the build of energy to be disrupted and then fall flat, but with Williams, that isn't the case. Her body language continues to rock and her epic vocals completely mesmerize the audience. I love the small detail of when she places a hand over her eyes on the line, "so if I keep my eyes closed with a blindfold." I'm usually not a fan of such on-the-nose hand gestures in relation to lyrics but her delivery is just so cool.
If you're a fan of this song's studio recording, you'll notice that she is putting emphasis on background vocals from that recording in this live performance. The blindfold lyric mentioned above is one of them. This kind of attention to small details is a true fan's dream come true. They notice and geek out over these things (as we all do when we are a big fan of anything creative) and the rush of excitement that comes when they hear these details come to life at a concert is electric.
Overall, this is a magnetic and magical performance full of intimacy and energy. It builds until it overflows and to say that I'm jealous of the crowd that was there would be an understatement. The music industry is better because of Hayley Williams and the band Paramore.