Paramore and No Doubt at PNC

The PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey has a penchant for booking quality shows at it's arena. Each year, hundreds of thousands of New Jersians look forward to the announcement of their Summer line-up. I enjoy going to a few of these shows, when I can afford to anyway.

Last night I was treated to a great show by No Doubt and Paramore. Though this is the fourth time seeing No Doubt live, this will be the one I remember most. Not for the music, mind you (although they did put on a hell of a show), but for the torrential downpour we incurred while waiting on line to get into the arena. Having to find out seats and endure the next four hours soaking wet was a feat I hope to never have to repeat in my life. Being extremely uncomfortable, I had better have been in store for an awesome show.

Having never seen Paramore live before, I was looking forward to their opening. One of the things that stands out with Paramore is their lead singer, Hayley Williams. From the minute she hit the stage, it was evident that she really loves her rock and roll lifestyle. Dressed in skinny jeans with a red dye job in her hair, she looks more like that quiet kid in high school with a backpack covered in patches and band names written in magic marker. But when she started singing, she belted out tunes as if her life depended on it. But she rocked out to the music of her band, banging her head in time to the beat.

Though they have only hit the big time recently, Paramore has a bunch of albums under their belt, so they had a wide range of songs to perform. Admittedly, many of them I didn't know, having only heard their most recent release, Riot!. They included 'Misery Business,' 'Crushcrushcrush,' and 'That's What You Get' in their set list, all of which were enjoyable to hear live for the first time. But noting compared to the reaction from the crowd when they played the first couple of bars of 'Decode,' their radio hit from he movie Twilight. Being that the crowd consisted mostly of females, the place exploded in adoration.

At around 9:15, No Doubt came on stage with the grandeur that one would expect from No Doubt. Silhouettes on a large, white sheet filled the stage, one by one, as each of the band members walked out. As the sheet dropped, the band played 'Spiderwebs,' and it was all over from there.

They rocked Holmdel in true No Doubt fashion, playing all their hits from Tragic Kingdom, Return of Saturn, and Rocksteady. One of the coolest parts of the show was the giant screen behind the stage, which showed pre-recorded video during a few of there songs, like 'Underneath It All' and 'X-Girlfriend,' and showed computer generated imagery, like the outer-spaced scene during 'Different People.' My favorite use of the screen was a video-diary of the band pre-fame, being given the soundtrack of 'Running.' It was very classy and quite sentimental.

As I stated earlier, the crowd was mostly female, and this was never more evident than during 'Just A Girl' and 'Hey Baby.' The screaming, clapping, and jumping around was almost unbearable, but you have to admit, No Doubt definitely knows how to suck the energy from their fans.

In a true show of class, Gwen Stefani signed autographs for her fans lucky enough to be near the stage. She also obliged one fan in particular who had a birthday wish to hear 'Tragic Kingdom,' a song that they rarely play live. The band even invited one guy up on stage, who said that he had seen No Doubt live over 30 times, and allowed him to introduce the band. How's that for giving back to the fans?
Unfortunately, there were a couple of negatives to the show, one personal and one musical. The band's first encore included the song 'Rocksteady' which, to me, is one of their weakest songs. Wanting to hear something else, I felt that this detracted from their set list, which was quite rocking up until then. It kind of bothers me that the band ignores a few of their earlier albums, like The Beacon Street Collection, which features one of my favorite songs, 'Open The Gate.' I would have preferred to hear this over 'Rocksteady,' but judging by the crowds reaction, I suppose they made a good choice. My second complaint was 'It's My Life,' No Doubts cover of the eighties hit by Talk-Talk. While I do enjoy the album cut, their live rendition seemed a little flat. Compared to the spot-on versions they played of the rest of their songs, 'It's My Life' just sounded out of place.

The show ended with two songs. The first being a new cut, 'Stand And Deliver' (an Adam Ant cover apparently), an idea which they certainly lived up to. Each band member banged on a separate drum in a well choreographed routine, then brought out Paramore and the unbilled first performer, Janelle MonĂ¡e, to lend their talents to the song. Seeing thirteen people dance around the stage and banging on drums was certainly a sight to behold. Lastly, 'Sunday Morning.' Most likely one of Gwen's favorite songs to perform, she killed with this. Her vocals were perfect and along with the cooperation of the band, this was probably one of the best live renditions I have heard of this song.

I also have to add that Tom Dumont is a lot more talented than I have recognized in the past. Though the entire band played extremely well, Tom seemed to stand out to me. I have seen No Doubt three times previously, but last night, his solos just blew all others out of the water. If I were to build my own super-band, Mr. Dumont would be my lead guitarist for sure.

Despite the clothes-drenching we received before the show, I definitely had a good time. The music was fantastic, and both bands did a superb job of getting the crowd pumped. Though I was a little annoyed by the venue itself (I realized last night that I dislike seats; they get in the way if your just going to stand through the show anyway), but that isn't something that would detract from the concert. All in all, my recommendation is, if you have the opportunity to check out this tour, do it.

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