With their upcoming release Limitless imminent, Aussie natives Tonight Alive came for the U.K. to promote the album, armed with their usual infectious sound. Soon enough they find themselves in Manchester’s O2 Ritz venue, a small downgrade from the previous year’s tour at which they played the massive Academy 1 just up the road. Despite this, fans are lined streets away for another sold out Tonight Alive takeover.
Their stage setup is simple, a few vertical lights hanging behind the drum kit, poised upon a podium for easy viewing, and there are a few risers for pouncing on and off of lined along the front. Tonight Alive doesn’t require a full production to entertain as some bands do, as their energy speaks volumes and frontwoman Jenna McDougall is enigmatic, keeping every member enthralled throughout.
The set is 18 songs strong, and after seven full-on performances, the band takes it down a notch. As the other members flee the stage, Whakaio Taahi, acoustic guitar in hand, sets himself down on one of the risers by McDougall as she shares a request. “Can I see your faces and not your phones? Not trying to be a bitch or a smartass, but I want to see your faces, not your lenses.” It’s a simple request that is followed by all but one member of the crowd and, well, he’s a little too intoxicated to take direction. So the pair launches into “Complexes.” It ends with McDougall, as charming as ever, complimenting the fans, “You look gorgeous.”
The next song is improvised as it’s announced that the song hasn’t been played in two years. However it was a request made at the VIP session before the show, from a fan who had recently gone through a breakup with someone they had met at a Tonight Alive show. It’s a heartfelt rendition of “Safe & Sound” they get, with some in the front row unable to hold back their tears.
As everyone returns to the stage for more full-band performances, McDougall connects with the crowd again. “It’s always nice to be thanked,” she starts, seeming humble at the turnout being so far from home. “If you don’t believe your life has purpose, you’re lying to yourself. You always have a say. Say it with me: ‘I always have a fucking say.’” She’s charismatic, people listen when she talks and it helps that what she conveys holds an important message, something that will stick long after the lights come up and everyone retreats home once more.
The show continues with “The Edge,” a song pegged for one of The Amazing Spider-Man movies and is one of the more edgy numbers of the night. It has a real raw rock feel, whereas a lot of the others can feel quite upbeat and pop driven—just with a little more riffs. The likes of “Drive” is the prime example of pop undertones and is reminiscent of something you would listen to on a road trip with friends in summer. If you can picture that kind of montage while listening to the song, you’ve got it and it’s perfectly fitting to the title of the track.
As show law goes, an encore is always necessary after a moment or so of fans shouting for just one more song. Most bands would come back, play one more song and leave but McDougall comes out to connect. She wants to draw people in and interact, shouting, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” and beaming as the crowd instantly react with “Oi, oi, oi!” Their encore consists of a track from the new album “How Does It Feel?” and they finish on a high with “Lonely Girl” from their last album. Tonight Alive is a force to be reckoned with, hailing from almost a world away and having not yet released their new album, they are still able to draw in the masses, you can only wonder what’s to come once Limitless is out.