On Tuesday, November 25, we headed to London's Koko to see Tonight Alive play their landmark second album 'The Other Side' in full for the first time ever. It was an emotional night.
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
First up are French crew Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, who bounce and mosh their way through a set of the springiest pop-punk money can buy. Their stand-in drummer slips in seamlessly after the departure of longtime sticksman Jonathan Donnaes a few months back, and there's not a whole lot wrong with a highly strung 'In Friends We Trust' and a singalong-inducing jaunt through Smash Mouth's 'All Star'.
The Summer Set
The Summer Set's sun-drenched Arizonan outlook may not translate all that well to a drizzly November night in London, but a combination of hook-laden anthems like 'Fuck U Over', frontman Brian Dales' impressive moves and a mighty cover of Ed Sheeran's 'Sing' just about do the business for this lot. Hip-shaking, toe-tapping runs through 'Chelsea' and 'Boomerang' are accomplished enough and get arms swaying in a few corners of the room, but it's a little difficult to escape the feeling that tonight is about one band and one album in particular: 'The Other Side' by Tonight Alive.
Ten-and a half thousand miles from where the album was recorded in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales and 14 months on from its release, the five-piece stride onstage and fling the door to their darkest, most personal album open for the very first time. And boy, do they do it justice. 'The Ocean' is as expansive as ever and the melodrama of a nigh-on spiteful 'Lonely Girl', finds Jenna McDougall in great voice, while the entire band sound as tight as we've ever heard them.
There are minimal stage ticks and gimmicks here' this is a band hammering through their finest album with grins plastered across their faces and having every word screamed back at them. A sweeping 'Hell And Back' brings the tempo down a lick, but if anything the crowd - which takes in people who've travelled from everywhere from the US, Israel, Italy and Australia to witness this event - stretch their voices even further than ever before. Elsewhere, the album's lofty, operatic title track sounds ready for rooms much bigger than the 1,500-capacity Koko but for now this will do just fine, while an emotionally bare 'Complexes' gets a sea of arms swaying.
It's difficult to believe that tonight has been put together by a band still in their relative infancy, and even harder to believe that this is an album show. Where there would usually be a lull when lesser-known album tracks are broken out, the feverish crowd keep the momentum up with vigour. A first ever live outing for 'Say Please' gets a monumental response, as does Jenna's speech about "learning who you are and figuring that out" as she wipes a tear from her eye.
It's the first time they've ever played album closer 'You Don't Owe Me Anything', too, but you wouldn't be able to tell as guitarist Whakaio Taahi grabs a keyboard and Jenna perches on a flight case for a delicate, pitch-perfect end to the main part of their set and round out a triumphant, lung-bursting tribute to 'The Other Side'.
An almighty triple threat of other hits 'The Edge', 'Listening' and 'What Are You So Scared Of?' is as powerful an encore as any, but tonight it only adds gloss to a display of what these five have achieved over the past year. It's not just that they've played their finest album in full for the first time, it feels like this evening was the first time Tonight Alive have really laid themselves bare. Lucky for them and us, they've done it in a room where 'The Other Side' means something to everyone - not just the people who wrote it and not just the people screaming along at the barrier, but everyone. That's what makes tonight such an important milestone in this band's rapidly blossoming career.
Words by Andy Biddulph. Photos by Ben Gibson.
To see a full gallery of photos from the show, click right here.