No Doubt and Paramore at the Comcast Center, June 20, 2009. That's one of those date's that's going to stick in my head for a while, just like January 20, 2008 (Cobra Starship at the Middle East) and September 23, 2008 (Weezer at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell). It was that good.
It started out slightly sad. After waiting in line and fearing the impending forecasts of rain, the lady checking bags threw away my umbrella. Apparently they're not allowed. I was a little perplexed (what am I going to do with a mini, fold up umbrella?) but rules are rules and I should have checked ahead. Meh. After chatting with a couple in front of me in line (who were in their late 20s, early 30s, and could not for the life of them understand the scary scary things that were happening with scene kids in zebra print leggings) I entered through my spiffy Tour Club entrance and got inside early. I met up with a friend who works there, only to find out that he had met Adrien Young about 20 minutes before. I was beyond jealous, but he snagged me some earplugs (I had forgotten mine) for which I was eternally grateful, and I headed down to my seat. Section 2, Row Q, Seat 41. It was only 5 rows behind the pit and I was beyond excited. I chatted with a girl who had just spent 8 hours driving up from Virginia to see the show, and was going to have to spend the 8 hours right after the show driving back so that she could get to work the next morning. She had seen No Doubt before, and swore that it was worth it. Little did I know how absolutely correct she was.
First up was Janelle Monae. I started off bouncing my toe along with the beat. And then the bouncing stopped. And then an eyebrow went up. It was... it was a whole lot of crazy. I hate saying bad things about performers and bands. I do. I'm not a hardcore music critic, just some girl with a blog, and if they've got the balls to get up there on stage and sing and dance and open themselves up for all of us to see, then who am I to knock them down for it? But this was just weird. She was singing about being an alien, and people were coming to get her. Her dancing was a combination of the robot and a teenage girl singing into a hairbrush. Her hair was flying everywhere, she was making strange faces at the crowd, and no one around me got it. This video is a pretty accurate representation of the performance, except the crowd was confused, not screaming along in joy. This all could have been ignored, however, if her voice had blown me away. It didn't. It was good, she had a good voice, but not enough to compensate for the atrocity that was that performance. Also, there was a backing track of her own voice to fill in the parts where she's singing two things at once. And I completely understand that it is physically impossible to sing two parts at once, but either get a backup vocalist or leave it out. Don't put prerecorded sounds into a live show. It's a huge pet peeve of mine. She ended her set by stage diving, throwing down her microphone, and storming off stage.
Next up was Paramore. I have heard a lot of Paramore's music, as they're on the same label as a lot of the bands I listen to, and they're really big in the scene, but I'd never had any really strong feelings towards them one way or another. They rocked. Really rocked. The crowd was screaming along, the band was playing great and having fun. One of the guitarists looked a little stoic and angry (bad night? sick? tired? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt) but the other four were putting on a great show. They played almost all of their big hits ("Misery Business," 'That's What You Get," "Crush," "Decode," etc) as well as a few new songs from their upcoming album, to be released at the end of the summer. One of them, which I think was called "Ignorance," was pretty good. The lead singer, Hayley Williams, is just a little ball of orange haired energy, and she raced back and forth across the stage while belting out all of their songs. I took a few good photos (though as usual most of my time was spent taking video instead):
(I think this might be my favorite concert picture that I've taken. Not because there's anything super spectacular going on, and there's no dramatic lighting or weird angles, but it's just a good picture, what with the stripes and the angles and the color of her hair. I like it)
Next up was No Doubt. I have been a No Doubt fan for about six years. They were one of my absolute favorite bands early on in high school, when I was just beginning to form my taste in music. They really did help shape my musical life. I've been waiting for this concert since the day I bought Rock Steady. So when their images were projected on the huge white screen, dark silhouettes that towered over the crowd, I couldn't believe that it was finally here.
But then the curtain dropped and they started to play, firing full speed ahead into "Spiderwebs." I love "Spiderwebs," and had been hoping that the increased radio play it had been getting was surreptitious preshow marketing (if you can get the crowd amped up for the first song, one they've been hearing a lot lately, you can hook them into the rest of the show.) They were amazing. They were dressed in all white, matching their all white, futuristic looking stage set. A giant screen in the back projected films and clips of the band, each tailored to the different songs that they played. It was a bigger production than anything I have ever seen, and I was blown away.
The band was full of energy, and poured every ounce of themselves into the show. Gwen has more energy and more stage presence than anyone I have ever seen, and filled up the whole space with her tiny body, clad in a classic No Doubt outfit of a cut off white tank and pants with glittering, rhinestone studded falls of fabric off the back. After the first song, Adrian too returned to his more classic look, pulling off his outfit to spend the rest of his time drumming in underwear, checked thigh highs, a mohawk, and lipstick. I was on Tom's side of the stage and he spent the entire night looking ecstatic, strumming along on at least three different guitars and even a keytar during "Hey Baby." Tony pulled out a wicked pink and yellow bass at one point, and spent the entire night looking like he was having more fun than anyone else. They danced, they jumped, they bounced, they laughed, and they made the crowd feel like we were at some sort of awesome party with one of the best bands.
They played through almost all of the songs on their singles album, as well as "Tragic Kingdom" which Gwen said they had not played in twelve years. Everything was awesome and amazing, from "Hella Good" to "Just a Girl." At one point Gwen pulled a fan who was covered in No Doubt tattoos up on stage. She dropped down to do push ups before "Just a Girl." She made the crowd scream along. There was also a wardrobe change at one point, to a very cool, sparkling checkered outfit.
(I love this picture too. I almost never get anything this good with my little camera, but the lighting was perfect.)
They left to a chorus of screams before the encore, changed outfits, and came back out. This time, Adrian had added a tutu to his ensemble. They played "Rock Steady" and at one point Gwen pulled a flag out of the crowd that read "Boston's Love is Rock Steady." It really was. They ended the night by pulling a bunch of huge drums out onto the stage, and banging away. Adrian got a set on a marching band harness, and bounced and pranced and danced around the stage while they played their version of "Stand and Deliver" which they recently released for Gossip Girl. It's actually pretty catchy, and hopefully indicative of what is to come. They ended the night with bows and love to the crowd, and just about made my summer in an hour and a half. They were amazing. Absolutely amazing. This is the show that a little ska band in Anaheim dreams of playing one day.