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Paramore shows the heart in their song

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There's something innately likable about Paramore's lead singer Hayley Williams, and that was immediately apparent Tuesday night during the pop-punk band's headlining performance at the Minnesota State Fair.


Despite her shock of dyed hair — John Mayer famously called her "the great orange hope" — the 19-year-old Mississippi native comes across as refreshingly free from the often-ridiculous limitations that come with being a woman in rock. She's not the type of overly mannered, stage-school graduate that populates "American Idol," nor does she display the carefully crafted and paper-thin "rebel" persona of Avril Lavigne. If anything, Williams seems grounded and nearly — gasp — normal. That approachability has helped make her an instant icon with teen girls around the world.


Not to say Williams hasn't learned her share of rock-star tricks.


From the moment Paramore took the stage, it was obvious those overseas festival dates earlier this summer taught the band a thing or two about the elevated energy needed to play to the cheap seats.


Ironically enough, though, this show's relatively modest attendance of about 3,500 meant the majority of those cheap seats were empty. And, perhaps because of the soft ticket sales, the band's management decided less than an hour before showtime they would not allow local media to photograph the show.


No matter. The kids who did show up brought the enthusiasm of a crowd three times the size and were so revved up they bent the security fence in front of the stage during Phantom Planet's mediocre set earlier in the evening. Newcomers Paper Route opened the night, while piano-driven emo rockers Jack's Mannequin proved to be an ideal warm-up for the main attraction with a clutch of lively, vaguely disco-influenced songs.


Drawing from both their albums, with an emphasis on last year's platinum-seller "Riot," Williams barked out the rockers and brought out a surprisingly tender aspect of her voice during the mid-tempo numbers and ballads that, somehow, felt more intimate on the outdoor stage of the Fair than in a packed club. She dedicated the acoustic cut "My Heart" to the LiveJournal community that follows the band online and has forged a bond with the band that simply wasn't possible back in the glory days of Blondie and Pat Benatar, two obvious influences.


It'll be interesting to see where Paramore goes from here. While most of the crowd was young enough to never have paid their own car insurance, the band did draw a noticeable number of adult women, a following that can only grow with time.


Pop Music Critic Ross Raihala can be reached at rraihala@pioneer press.com or 651-228-5553. Read more about the local music scene on his blog, "The Ross Who Knew Too Much," at blogs.twincities.com/ross.

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