Review Summary: I'm going to count off, and then we shall rock.
Remember when Flyleaf were popular? Remember how we don't miss that?
The Final Riot! is Paramore's first DVD release, showing a full concert performance as well as footage of the band's daily life. The show's highlight is, of course, Hayley Williams. She's always had a strong voice, but on The Final Riot! her performance is somehow even better than what she did on Riot!. Paramore's songs are more demanding vocally than some would like to admit, and it's amazing to see her keep her voice all the way through the concert. "Let The Flames Begin" is her finest moment yet, with its dark, epic chorus replicated with flawless emotion by the fiery teen. Paramore wrote a coda to the song to perform live, and on this DVD it will absolutely blow listeners away. On her knees, Williams give a career-making performance as she belts out "I am here now; I want to dance in the mighty palm of your hand." Slower tracks like "When It Rains" and "We Are Broken" show a different side of her stage presence; the former, one of Riot!'s weaker tracks, is given new life by Williams' singing, and the latter, which was slightly cheesy on the record, is stunningly poignant, Williams' surprisingly adept piano playing making it all the more enjoyable, although it does sound as if she's leading a praise chorus at the end. ("Sing this with me...with all your heart.")
Perhaps playing second fiddle to their lead singer in the press has inspired the other members of Paramore to step up their game. Once again, "Let The Flames Begin" is the highlight; while the added intro and outro are a bit simple, it's impressive to see a mainstream band like Paramore making their songs more interesting live as opposed to merely replicating what they did on the album. Many of the other songs feature new sections as well, including rousing intros to both opener "Born For This" and All We Know Is Falling single "Emergency." Disappointingly, one of the band's best songs, "Pressure," is consistently weak live; Farro's chorus lead is given too much volume, making it overbearing and grating, and his slowness in switching tones makes parts of "Decoy" not as powerful as they could have been. However, gripes with the band members are few and far between, and the things that the band amalgamates into their show are often very enjoyable. Notably, they perform the first verse of Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah" before exploding into their own song of the same name, and while purists may cry heresy, Williams' voice works amazingly well with the song, and hearing a crowd of thousands sing along shows just how far-reaching the song has become over the years. Thankfully, they don't perform the bridge of At The Drive-In's "One Armed Scissor" at the end of "Here We Go Again" like they usually do. Williams has an amazing voice, but only Cedric Bixler-Zavala should perform Cedric Bixler-Zavala material.
The Final Riot!'s flaws come not from the band themselves, but with the overall presentation of the DVD. The documentary-style interludes that are shown after every few songs interrupt the flow of the concert, and while there is an option to watch them separately, there is no option to watch the full uninterrupted concert. Furthermore, the interludes are rather uninteresting and predictable anyway; if you've seen one DVD showing the band "having fun on tour," you've seen them all. It also seems like Paramore should have waited to release a DVD until at least one more album is out. The concert features every song from Riot! bar "Miracle," and they even perform the b-side "Decoy." While they do their best to make things interesting, listening to the CD version of The Final Riot! is basically like listening to a normal Paramore album. Additionally, some of Williams' attempts at aggression make her sound like an immature tween, but that can be chalked up to her having fun playing the music she loves.
While The Final Riot! wasn't a necessary release for Paramore, it shows that they're capable of more than hardcore music fans give them credit for. You can watch them play their best songs, watch them become familiar with and work the crowd (who sing along to basically every single word), and best of all, you can finally watch Hayley Williams shake her hips in hi-definition. She's become an accomplished performer, nuanced and powerful, yet not without a certain amount of sweetness underneath it all. After her mindblowing performance in "Let The Flames Begin," she lets out a little giggle.
"So how about a couple slow jams?"