LIVE: Tonight Alive at Barfly, London [09/10/12]

By Lais

Despite their popularity in native Australia, Tonight Alive are yet to grace a stage in the UK’s capital as a headliner. Tonight’s sold out show in Camden’s 220 person sweatbox is therefore destined to become a milestone in the band’s four year history. The show marks the end of a twelve date European Tour with LostAlone, and eight days with Cheshire lads Blitz Kids. All three bands are looking to end the tour with a bang.

Opening up tonight’s performance are pop-rock upstarts Blitz Kids. Despite hanging around the circuit for some time the four-piece are yet to extend their reach into the mainstream. Judging by the demonstration of musical prowess particularly evident in the newer material, the band are more than ready to break through. Taking on a sessional guitarist, the sound is more extravagant than in the past – the exaggerated melodies serving to improve the overall impact of the sound. The enticing catchy melodies and arrangements take the forefront over the more simple compositions of older material, and by the time Blitz Kids relax into their thirty minute set they are undoubtedly on form.

LostAlone follow with a reasonably accomplished performance filled with theatrics – both in and out of the music. Frontman Steven Battelle lavishes the limelight, choosing to abandon the microphone altogether in favour of commanding complete silence in the energetic room. Surprisingly the response is minimal, yet when throwing himself into the middle of the crowd for his “original” wall of love he successfully garners more attention.

Musically the trio sit snuggly between indie and My Chemical Romance style melodrama. It is difficult to grasp where the style sits between the preceding pop-rockers and the headline act, and the mismatch is not lost on the audience. LostAlone certainly maintain the high volume that has characterised proceedings up to this point, however Battelle’s vocals begin to grind by the end of the set. The performance is spectacle rather than a demonstration of musical craftsmanship, and perhaps is more suited to the upcoming Evanescence support slot rather than tonight.

Australians around the capital would be roused by the energetic Australian chant which fills the Barfly eleven songs into the headline set. The camaraderie of the audience in responding to Jenna McDougall’s repeated “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” is indicative of the atmosphere at tonight’s show. There is an unmistakable feeling of understanding directed towards the various crowd interactions by the Tonight Alive front-woman, be they somewhat naïve and misguided at various points. Tonight Alive may appear superficial at times – a particularity associated with the pop-punk genre in general – but are determined to persuade the audience otherwise. Following a cautiously honest rendition of ‘Amelia’ the meaning in the lyrics is evidently not lost on any of the band members.

Musically Tonight Alive are on top form, juggling with changes in pace from track to track and even throwing in a cover of Rufio’s ‘In My Eyes’ early on. The guitars and drums have a tendency to drown out the vocals during the softer moments, and indeed during the speedier vocal sections, yet McDougall demands the majority of the attention by raising herself over the audience; front and centre. Presumably used to this, the remaining band members continue to provide close-to-flawless support to the powerful vocal lead. This power is enhanced throughout by a habitual echo effect which at times is overused, however there are only small lapses in vocal quality – again, mostly during the faster moments – which brings the prowess into question. As a whole the sound is aptly led by the dominating vocal chords.

Playing through a setlist containing the majority of ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ along with the unavoidable Mumford and Sons cover of ‘Little Lion Man’, Tonight Alive deliver a crowd-pleasing performance. The sheer magnitude of the vocals – aided in part by effects – and the ability of the remaining four band members ensures the occasional spine-tingling moment. At times, Tonight Alive demonstrate the ability and dedication to become the next-big-thing in the female fronted pop-punk world.