REVIEW: TONIGHT ALIVE @ O2 ACADEMY BRISTOL – 13.03.18

Whether you’re an established band, stadium-fillers or still making your round of clubs, a dramatic experimentation with sound, era upon era, is risky territory. It’s a sure-fire way to lose fans but, a huge return in new listeners if executed correctly.

This constant evolution is something Tonight Alive are known for in the scene. Through the first half of their career (so far) it felt like it had paid off. However, after a third album that seemed too distant from what fans were familiar with, their status dipped low; no sold out tours, crowd-sizes shrinking at festivals, the decline was apparent. But if tonight’s display in Bristol is anything to go by, the group are living proof that bands can come back ready to be bigger, better and fight for what they once had and more.

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Tonight Alive – Photo: Natalie Lam

Opening the night, The Gospel Youth bring pitch perfect sass and poppy choruses to the table. Their music is objectively accessible, particularly for this audience, and their ‘new band’ demeanour does them favours. It’s a little heartwarming to everyone to still see a young band genuinely grateful for even an opening slot, and this humbling attitude certainly leaves fans feeling more inclined to listen beyond these four walls.

Roam follow, and that aforementioned ‘new band’ demeanour doesn’t quite carry. Their performance is tight and sonically, they fill the room nicely, but this professionalism doesn’t pair well with stutter-y stage chat and a severe lack of enthusiasm between songs. Perhaps it’s just those end of tour emotions…

An agony aunt, an older sibling, and a best friend all enveloped into one. This is how Tonight Alive feel to their fans tonight.

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Tonight Alive – Photo: Natalie Lam

Lights flashing, crowds cheering, a backing track so loud it’s on the verge of deafening. They storm onto the stage with encouraging grins, and as that first chord strikes, suddenly, everyone feels at ease. The familiarity of hearing Lonely Girl and The Ocean following new album opener Book of Love helps release the inner child in everyone. The chilling echoing of fans singing back and an almost unbelievable connection between the band and the crowd creates an immeasurable level of familiarity – Tonight Alive are the best friend that you don’t need to maintain a relationship with, but when you reunite again, it’s like nothing ever changed.

What sets Tonight Alive apart from tour mates, label mates, bands in a similar genre, is that they’ve got a clearly defined ‘demeanour’ – conscious rock music. Frontwoman, Jenna, discusses spiritual journeys, inner demons and conquering challenges along the way. It very much seems like a fad, until you hear the sincerity in her voice, the deadpan looks among the other band members, and their past experiences that support this; label issues, losing band members, even admitting that their past was their prime. Tonight Alive are the older sibling sharing their experiences, and guiding you on how to overcome difficult situations.

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Tonight Alive – Photo: Natalie Lam

From neon pop punk in What Are You So Scared Of? to 90s inspired pop rock in To Be Free, the sonic changes in album themes are even more noticeable when put side to side, but they all evoke the same reaction of jumps, hand claps and screams. There’s an unspoken agreement that both the band and the fans are on the same wave length, giving each other their undivided attention and enthusiasm, and this encourages Tonight Alive to share deeper thoughts; thoughts on the purpose of life, our belonging, our growth. They’re the agony aunt, there to help you find the answer to the questions you may not have even realised you needed to ask.

While crowd sizes may have dwindled over time, the loyalty and dedication of their fans have only strengthened. It’s pushed the band to create and perform like never before and deliver a show that even fans who have seen them play previously be left in complete awe.

Review by Natalie Lam

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