B.O.B. is strutting about the stage like a man who is very much in his element. Why wouldn’t he; he is just 22 years old, and already has three smash hits under his belt, including a contender for Single Of The Year in ‘Nothin’ On You’, and here he finds himself performing to an O2 which is close-to-brimming with highly excitable teenagers, tots and slightly puzzled parents. Our B.O.B. is so in control in this huge arena, so at ease with his newfound megastardom, that he breezily leads all present in some audience participation. “Hands up if you’re a Scorpio!”, “Hands up if you wear shades!”, he chirrups, and the crowd responds with gusto. Given that most of the assembled audience are presumably here to see ‘intensely intense’ headliners Paramore, it’s surprising to see them break into spontaneous bursts of co-ordinated dancing along to B.O.B.’s particular brand of upbeat, fizzy pop-rap. Indeed, the audience don’t bounce half as much when B.O.B. straps on a guitar for the ‘meaningful’, driving rock numbers. More predictably, they go off-the-scale pogo mental when Paramore’s Hayley Williams wanders on stage for her guest spot on recent hit ‘Airplanes’. Bruno Mars doesn’t show for his bit of ‘Nothin’ On You’, but no matter – B.O.B.’s set is something of a triumph. On tonight’s evidence he could almost fill this venue as a headliner himself.
For a band who inhabit the nasty world of hard-livin’, whiskey-swilling, devil-worshipping rock ‘n’ roll, Paramore are a funny lot. They don’t drink, they don’t smoke. What, to paraphrase Adam Ant, do they do? Their unique selling point (except it doesn’t seem that unique these days), is their gift for combining planet-sized stadium metal and the sort of nice, homely values of which your granny would approve. Tonight they run through a set which mainly consists of songs from their recent, acclaimed album Brand New Eyes. While this mainly involves enormous riffs, much headbanging from Hayley and band, and no-end of roar-along anthemic tuneage (both ‘That’s What You Get’ and ‘Careful’ whip up storms inside the arena to rival the actual one raging outside), it is the quiet bits that work best. It’s lighters-aloft for the really rather sweet ‘The Only Exception’, and an acoustic ‘Misguided Ghosts’ has the entire crowd bellowing along.
During moments like these Paramore are really quite marvellous. Hayley’s onstage patter tends to be overly tangential and long-winded however, and threatens to dampen the atmosphere. At one point she scolds some punters in the moshpit for chucking their glowsticks on stage, but the kids don’t really mind – they seem to see Hayley as a sort of elder sister figure; the warmth and fond regard they have for the impressively pink haired singer is palpable in the crowd’s eager response to her every utterance, and reflected in the amount of Hayley clones in the crowd. There are quite a few glum looking kids moping about in the corners of the O2 while the concert is ongoing – possibly the result of boyfriend/girlfriend trouble or excessive intake of cola (the bar is over-21s only, which seems harsh) but perhaps Paramore are the perfect band for these people – a comforting arm around the shoulder for the emotionally fragile teen, with energy and self-awareness to go with it.
Photos: Alessio Michelini.