Tonight Alive @ The Ritz Manchester Review (19.02.16)
You can’t understand what some bands are all about until you’ve seen them live. Tonight Alive are one of those bands. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, they’ve toured the world extensively since their formation in 2008. They played their biggest headline tour to date last year at Manchester Academy 1, and this year they sold out the Ritz on their Limitless tour.
I arrived at the jam-packed Ritz to see quite a mixture of people – parents lingering at the bar, eager teenagers trying to push their way to the front, casual fans hanging around the squishy sofas and balconies. I managed to get a great view of the stage from the side balcony (the closest I’ve ever been to the stage at a Tonight Alive gig).
The five-piece confidently started their sell-out show with To Be Free, a new track from the upcoming album Limitless. Despite it being a new song, the venue was filled with the glorious sound of fans singing at the top of their lungs. Tonight Alive played some of their catchiest pop-punk hits from their first album What Are You So Scared Of? including Listening, What Are You So Scared Of? and the touching Amelia. We also enjoyed an array of the darker, heavier tunes from their second album The Other Side, which seemed to be the most popular with the majority of the audience because of the raw honesty of their lyrics. Explosive numbers like The Ocean, Bathwater and The Fire were performed with vigour, and frontwoman Jenna McDougall’s infectious energy had arms bouncing all over the room.
The band gently eased us into the acoustic part of the set, and Jenna asked the audience to put their phones away, saying “I want to look into your eyes, not your lenses.” Guitarist Whakaio Taahi perched on the edge of the stage to play the melodies while Jenna belted her way through The Other Side, Complexes and an improvised version of Safe and Sound at the request of a fan.
Jenna took a lot of time to interact with the audience, urging everyone in the room to empower themselves by shouting expletives at the top of their voices and sticking their middle fingers in the air. The highlight of the evening was seeing a girl crowdsurf across the room and Jenna climbing down to firmly clasp her hand before she was dragged away by security.
Breaking and Entering wasn’t on the setlist, which is a personal favourite of mine, but it was hard to be unhappy with what was included. The Amazing Spiderman 2 soundtrack The Edge, golden oldie Wasting Away and breezy Drive sounded amazing. Jenna has such a great presence; her loveable dance moves and consistent liveliness make it easy to feel comfortable at shows even if you don’t know the music.
Bringing the night’s antics to a close, they finished up with brutally honest Lonely Girl and no-nonsense anthem How Does It Feel? which ended the show on a definite high. Jenna’s powerful voice was barely audible at times because of the noisy crowd – this is exactly how it should be.
Tonight Alive always seem genuinely humbled by the overwhelmingly positive responses they get on tour. Jenna oozes confidence and provides fans with a lot of wise advice, and it’s easy to see why so many people look up to her. Their 3rd album Limitless marks a new era for Tonight Alive and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.