Tonight Alive with support from Set It Off
Sunday 6th October 2013 – Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast
Belfast’s ‘Oh Yeah’ Centre has been the go-to place for teenage rock fans wanting to see smaller and up-and-coming rock bands since it opened its doors in 2008, and tonight’s pop-rock flavoured gig is no exception. First up is Floridians Set It Off. With their enthusiasm, inspirational speeches, ‘hey’s, ‘woah-oh’s and handclaps, they are infectious and earnest but at times their ‘ADTR without the bite’ sound is a tad generic. Nonetheless the small crowd is noisily appreciative, if a touch confuzzled at the request for a ‘wall of death’. Here? Really??? Hmm…still, they (especially vocalist Cody Carson) get top marks for their fervour and, er, standing on the crowd. Cool trick!
This evening’s headliners have come a long way since their formation in Sydney, Australia a mere five years ago. In that time, Tonight Alive have released two EP’s and two albums, undertaken a relentless touring schedule and battled ill health (vocalist Jenna McDougall in particular has suffered dreadfully from eczema). They have begun touring again for latest album ‘The Other Side’ with, by all accounts, fresh vigour and renewed health.
The atmospheric music and flashy light display slides into a cool drum intro as the band file onstage. McDougall, resplendent in orange tshirt and horror-movie green hair, is immediately smiley and effusive. Opening song ‘The Ocean’ is met with screams of approval from the crowd, which continue unabated for the duration. McDougall points the mike into the crowd several times for a singalong and is never disappointed with the response. The entire set is bright, colourful and very user-friendly for this young crowd.
The band plays a lively mix of old and new songs, such as ‘Wasting Away’ from their very first EP, the emotional ‘Amelia’ (which they solemnly dedicate to their fans and “people that we miss tonight”), and the chugging ‘Let It Land’. Throughout, McDougall remains confident and sweet, often rounding off songs with a triumphant fist-pump. She is simultaneously the young rock chick (“are you guys hot? Are you sweaty? Well then you’re doing it right!”) and the endearingly gawky kid; the very antithesis of a diva. Her strong, clear voice has led to the inevitable comparisons with Paramore; however, TA are more straight-up rock than Hayley and co, especially the latter’s most recent, quite poppy output. And, as shows like this are proving, TA are definitely coming into their own slowly but surely, in terms of both sound and onstage presence and confidence.
Whilst addressing the excited crowd, McDougall remains spirited and relatable, whether she’s talking about “ex-best friends” in the intro for ‘Lonely Girl’ or telling them to believe in themselves. It’s not all sickeningly syrupy though, as the raised middle fingers following the aforementioned song demonstrate! She is an engaging and intelligent young woman; a passionate role model for the young rock girlies here this evening.
Following a blinding ‘Breaking and Entering’ (complete with circle pit on demand), they exit the stage in a haze of more dry ice and flashy lights, leading to the inevitable chat of, “one more song!” Returning to ecstatic cheers, they say a fond farewell and launch into their previous album’s title track, ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’, which garners the most fervent reaction from the crowd. This, and the power ballad-esque ‘Amelia’ are the highlights of a sparkling, high-energy set.
Tonight Alive are unquestionably at the lighter end of the rock spectrum, but they are by no means soft or flimsy: these guys really rock! Will they ever support Slayer? No. Are they a great, safe, parent-friendly entry point for young kids (particularly girls) getting into rock n roll? Definitely. For that alone, the applause (and raised horns) tonight at the Oh Yeah are justified.