Tonight Alive

support ROAM
author LL date 17/03/18 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

The Australian pop-punk-turned-grandiose-pop-rock group Tonight Alive is a band I have followed all the way since their first full-length came out in 2011. In all that time, they have only appeared in Denmark once as support for One OK Rock in 2014 so there was no doubt in my mind I was going to be there when they finally announced this headlining show. As a band they have evolved a lot on the two albums they have released since and as it is proven to us tonight, their live act is now even tighter than before. First, however, there is the matter of the two support acts. The Gospel Youth were scheduled to open but just never appear as they have apparently had to go back home. This is mentioned by neither the venue nor the remaining bands when they're on stage, leaving the few of us who seem to care for other than the evening's headliner pretty confused. The UK pop-punkers of ROAM still go on stage just around the announced start of the show, thus kicking off an energetic but also early-ending evening of music.

All pictures by Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

ROAM

The five lads get right into it, utilizing the small stage downstairs at Pumpehuset the best they can to get our energy levels up. At first, their sound is a bit muddled and the vocals have a weird echoing effect, that makes them sound hollow more than anything else. They play through a selection of fast songs primarily from their newest record "Great Heights and Nosedives" but a few older favorites from their debut "Backbone" make an appearance as well, one of them being the bouncy song "Hopeless Case" that gets the sound mix just right and makes for one of the best moments of their show. In general, they have a great dynamic between their vocalist and their lead guitarist who sings a significant part of the lyrics as well, cleverly making room enough for both of them to mostly nail their parts with enough breath to spare for some jumping around and trying to get the audience to do the same. Their backing track mostly makes subtle appearances in the sound, but sometimes makes itself more known, not least in the chorus effects on "Alive". In general, the group seems in good spirits working with the crowd that unfortunately only fills up about a third of the total space of the venue. A few dedicated fans jump and sing along for pretty much all songs and their energy does seem to influence the crowd of mostly young girls that are otherwise just waiting for Tonight Alive pressed against the stage. But even with their valiant attempts at energizing us, then, the venue-wide bouncing that they get going once in a while quickly stops again and with the weird echoing on the vocals remaining a factor, the songs don't quite sound their very best. Still, the last song, "Playing Fiction", fares a little better than the previous songs mix-wise and thus the boys leave us with a good impression.

6

Setlist:

  • 1. Left For Dead
  • 2. Alive
  • 3. Hopeless Case
  • 4. Flatline
  • 5. Guilty Melody
  • 6. Open Water
  • 7. Deadweight
  • 8. The Rich Life of a Poor Man
  • 9. Playing Fiction

Tonight Alive

After a good half an hour of people scrambling to get everything ready on stage, the lights finally dim and the four current members of Tonight Alive come on stage to the backtrack intro of the opening track on their new album. No doubt they're used to playing way bigger venues by now but even so, the whole band seems focused on the audience they have before them tonight and especially frontwoman Jenna McDougall seems wholeheartedly eager to make it a night to remember for everyone who is here. And the mostly young audience, while never filling up more than half the venue, is just as dedicated, with most people singing loudly along to every word of their new as well as their old songs. Now, the last time we saw them, they performed at the much more spacious Amager Bio stage which left plenty of room for McDougall to don a typical "pop punk hype" kind of persona, jumping left and right and changing up her singing with some more aggressively almost barking vocal styles. This starts out being kind of prominent in the first few songs tonight, especially "Lonely Girl" and "The Ocean", but while she is also very energetic, dancing and jumping around plenty here tonight, the more intimate venue also allows her crowd interaction between as well as during songs to be more heartfelt and on level with her audience. This creates quite a special vibe that manages to work out a pretty much perfect balance with the big production of their tracks.

The mix is mostly on point as well while it is also very obvious that the newer songs have much firmer electronic backtracks and more added vocal effects to them, making them seem more bombastic than the other songs presented tonight. For some older songs, not least "What Are You So Scared Of?", McDougall tends to disappear a bit in the mix, which is a bit of a shame when she performs otherwise impressively throughout the set. Overall, though, I have rarely heard a band sound so good on this stage as Tonight Alive does the overwhelming majority of the time.

At some point during the production cycles of their last two albums, "Limitless" and "Underworld", the band seems to have really found a meaningful way to use their music as a platform to inspire their mostly young fans. McDougall has a larger than life expression to her and through the show, she pauses for three more or less firmly rehearsed speeches that touch on big themes like empowerment, personal growth, self-worth, and in general just feeling good with yourself in life - all, of course, resonating especially with newer songs like "World Away", "To Be Free", "Disappear", and not least the danceable single "Temple" that all shine significantly tonight. Her approach can seem spacy or arbitrary when she orchestrates that we all let out a "cosmic sigh" together, talks about her current reading about "the original self", or disappears into herself meditatively during the outro of "For You". But with McDougall so absolutely living what she preaches and seeing how grounded it seems to have made her through the years, it's inspiring to witness up close. This entire spiritual dimension that has been integrated into their live show also sets the band's discography in a special light and with the very well mixed together setlist we get on this tour, nothing ever seems out of place even as their style has changed over the years. Songs like "How Does It Feel?" or "Hell and Back" especially integrate nicely into the narrative.

Throughout the set, McDougall is constantly aware of integrating us into the performance of the songs, constantly having back and forths with the audience while at the same never leaving any of her many catchy vocal hooks to be sung only by us. It gives a great satisfaction to experience such a skilled vocalist continually nailing her parts while at the same time maintaining such a wonderful presence and relationship with the audience as the one we witness tonight.

About midway through the set, we get a special treat in the shape of the by now relatively rarely played, acoustic and emotional song "Amelia" from the band's first full-length. Personally, I'm especially happy to hear my old favorite song "Listening" make an early appearance in the set, as well as the simple but impactful stand-alone single "World Away" that I have definitely had in a heavier rotation last year than all of the "Limitless" album's songs combined. As the band finishes with the three high-energy songs "Disappear", "The Edge", and finally, "Temple", they only have us thoroughly pumped and ready for even more but this is not a tour of encores, as it turns out. In many ways, it has been a refreshing show to be a part of but of course the roof never quite lifts off the building as we aren't more people ready to sing along and get crazy here tonight. Overall though, I don't think I have seen a band own the downstairs stage at Pumpehuset in a better manner than Tonight Alive for a long time. They're still a young band and with the way they seem to truly be finding their own voice and platform by now, I will definitely be sure to stick around for where their musical journey takes them next.

Setlist:

  • 1. Book of Love
  • 2. Lonely Girl
  • 3. The Ocean
  • 4. Listening
  • 5. Crack My Heart
  • 6. What Are You So Scared Of?
  • 7. How Does It Feel?
  • 8. World Away
  • 9. Amelia (acoustic)
  • 10. For You
  • 11. To Be Free
  • 12. Hell and Back
  • 13. The Other Side
  • 14. Disappear
  • 15. The Edge
  • 16. Temple

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