Tonight Alive – O2 Institute, Birmingham (26th February 2016) – LIVE REVIEW

This Tonight Alive review was written by Jack Press, a Gigsoup Contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard. Header photo by Josh Partridge.

Four years ago, Australian alt-rockers Tonight Alive toured their pop-punk party round the UK for the first time as headliners, stopping off at the Craufurd Arms to play in the back of a pub to a dismal crowd of fifty or so people with nothing but a debut album under their belts. This time, they headlined the O2 Institute Birmingham – a room of 1,000 people which was virtually full to the rafters the moment they burst onto stage to the opening lines of ‘Be Free’, with album number three, ‘Limitless’, weeks from release.

Before the storm comes the calm, as openers Milk Teeth pack a subtle punch of punk-infused 90’s grunge running through a setlist that very much reads as a half hour Milk-Teeth-For-Dummies crash-course. Opening with debut-album ‘Vile Child’ highlight ‘Brain Food’ and closing with one of their sure-fire super-songs ‘Vitamins,’ Milk Teeth try their hardest to top the biggest tour they’ve been on in their so-far short career. Whilst it’s clear this crowd are here for Australia’s finest rather than Stroud’s Supremes, there’s a mosh-pit or two floating about throughout – a large feat for a small band. In truth, this set could be tighter, but when you’re touring with the band you were stood in this very venue watching three years ago, you can’t say you didn’t give it your all – and they definitely did.

It’s unfortunate then, that following them are post-hardcore staples Our Last Night, who are received with a barrage of fifteen year-olds screaming their lungs off – and one balding man way too happy to see the New Hampshire group. In all honesty, they’re as tight as tight can be live, flowing through songs like they were truly born to play them. What plagues their set, though, is the inability to tell if they’re a boyband or a post-hardcore band. Frontman Trevor Wentworth is clearly cut from the cloth of the music industry and whilst that’s fine, it occasionally takes away from the killer tunes his bandmates bash out.

Boybands aside, Australia’s Tonight Alive have been on one hell of a journey the last four years, and to headline a venue of 1000 people for the second time is as special as it gets for these pop-punk-turned-alt-rock superstars. New track ‘To Be Free’ flies over the crowd as one-and-all jump along. It’s not until second song ‘The Ocean’ kicks in that the crowd truly becomes one, operating under the command of ever-changing vocalist Jenna McDougall, who lights up the stage with Hayley Williams levels of stage domination.

Tonight is as emotional as it gets, Jenna reminiscing over the torturous times she travelled through to write the inordinately impressive palette of songs to which they choose from tonight, dedicating a series of songs to various friends and family. Live-staple ‘Amelia’ is as heart-warming and heart-breaking as ever, but the show is stolen by a trio of acoustic moments. Starting with the ode to teen loveSafe & Sound’, following through with old-school cut ‘To Die For’, and finishing off the section with a rare added-verses original version of ‘The Other Side’. Guitarist Whakaio Taahi proves his prowess with his instrument as Jenna proves she’s got the pipes of a pop-punk princess.

The only weakness in an almost-flawless set is the decision to omit so many cuts from their earlier material, favouring newer tracks such as ‘Human Interaction’ and ‘Drive’. Whilst hearing fan favourites is always a must, this was a statement of intent from an ever-growing, ever-changing band who have finally discovered themselves, as seen when they rocket through the series of tracks coming from Limitless.

Saying that, one of the night’s highlights comes from a rapturous hard-hitting one-two combo of ‘Wasting Away’ and ‘Listening’, mixed in with an impromptu cover of Blink-182’s ‘Dammit’. Closing their set with ‘How Does It Feel?’ and ‘Lonely Girl’, Tonight Alive prove they’re not just that band who did the song for Spiderman. If this is how far they’ve come in four years, they’ll be conquering arena’s come 2020.


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