LIVE: Tonight Alive @ KOKO, London

By Yasmin Brown

With it being International Women’s Day, it only made sense that London’s KOKO saw a sold out crowd come together to celebrate one of the most powerful and inspirational women in the pop-punk scene.  Alongside her 3 bandmates, Jenna McDougall fiercely commanded the stage, combining an unwavering smile of gratitude and wonder with a certain ferocity and determination. As the Australian four-piece worked together to put on an extraordinarily multifaceted performance, they successfully lifted the spirits of everyone in attendance, surpassing any expectations we may have had for the night ahead.

Those who ventured into the depths of the pit were hit with a sensory overload as sweat filled our nostrils, familiar guitar riffs hit our eardrums, and personal space was suddenly nothing but a fond memory. If prior to this evening you had only heard Tonight Alive through your headphones, you might expect their set to be a somewhat relaxed environment, but when performed live, their music translates into a heavier vibe that encouraged circle pits and unrelenting moshing throughout the night.

The only respite came during the acoustic part of the set, which acted as a celebration of an on-stage proposal between two fans who, combined, had attended over 90 Tonight Alive shows over the years. The band changed up the set list at this point, playing Underworld’s ‘For You’ as opposed to the 2016 track ‘Oxygen’ which had been played at preceding shows. This switch acted as an ode to the engagement as well as the outstanding number of shows the couple had attended and showed that the love and gratitude that the fans so often speak of is reciprocated by the band.

Regardless of whether you have seen Tonight Alive once or 100 times, there is a fierce fan loyalty made evident not just by the happy couple on stage, but also by signs that were scattered around the crowd; some explaining that they had traveled all the way from Italy just to be there, others claiming Tonight Alive helped save their lives. This kind of connection between a band and their fanbase could also act as a partial explanation for the sheer intensity with which the crowd engaged in the show, becoming part of the performance as opposed to mere spectators.

The night was full of special moments. From the first live performance of fan favourite ‘Say Please’ since the band’s last performance at KOKO in 2014, to an inspiring speech revolving around our ability to change the world prior to launching into ‘The Edge’, each element made it a night to remember. “Life has gifted us with something we call choice and we can transform the world we live in if we learn to use our voice.”

With a balanced combination of songs from their entire discography, Tonight Alive showed their growth as a band while also highlighting that what they stand for remains the same. Whether they were imploring us to listen to others in their 2011 song ‘Listening’ or repeatedly yelling “I am limitless” in 2016’s ‘To Be Free’, it is clear that they are the same band they have always been, even through the development of their sound. As each song is performed live, the band proves just how tuned in to one another they are, and Jenna’s voice never falters as she hits each note seamlessly.

As the night drew to a close, Jenna removed all barriers – physical and metaphorical – by climbing into the crowd during the leading single off ‘Underworld’ (and potentially one of Tonight Alive’s most well received tracks to date), ‘Temple’. It’s uncommon for a live performance to bring everyone together in what feels like an almost spiritual way, but Tonight Alive combined their message with their incredible talent to create a community that is bound stand strong, long after the last notes were played.

This string of UK shows was always going to be poignant, not least because the band openly admits that it’s the only place outside of Australia that feels like home. That sense of belonging combined with the resoluteness that radiated from the stage and the crowd’s loss of inhibitions were all strong contributors in making this show being a truly rare experience for everyone in attendance.