Sound: Tonight Alive came to us fresh off the Warped Tour, so I was expecting them to be tired and burnt out. Oh, how wrong I was.
February 2012 I hear 3 Tonight Alive songs whilst trawling through YouTube ("Breaking & Entering", "Let It Land" and "Wasting Away") and upon seeing the opportunity to see them live for $10, I went along as a curiosity, knowing that I liked a few songs and keen to see how they did live, and also just needing a live show to cheer me up. I went in an impartial witness and left entirely converted. Top to bottom the show was musically flawless, energetic, powerful, and charismatic. But more of that later.
Support was from Maybe Rave (a local band of high-schoolers, it was their first show) and Arklow (a weird Indie kind of band, a bit more experienced), and was really quite disappointing. Maybe Rave's singer was flat and didn't move her feet once the whole show, the drummer lagged, and the mix was pretty awful. They did 2 originals and 2 covers, one of which was an All Time Low cover although I have no idea what song. Arklow fared slightly better they play some weird Indie inspired stuff with trippy keyboards, bizarre lyrics about nature, and odd time signatures. They definitely cranked it up a couple of notches and got the audience going. Their frontwoman had stage presence in spades, her guitarist was also decent, and the drummer was impressive.
I'll get into Tonight Alive's performance in the next section.
The mix... It's hard to tell how it was mixed because it was just so damn loud. Im not joking when I say that out of the 3 friends who went with me, 2 of them couldnt hear properly for two days one who we dragged along to his first rock concert actually went to the doctor cos he thought he was going deaf. I did notice that the cymbals werent overwhelming, and the bass was pleasantly loud. Overall, from what I could tell it sounded pretty damn good.
From what I could see, Cam was playing a Red Fender P-Bass, and both Jake and Whakaio played Sunburst Gibson Les Paul standards. Sound was good, but too loud for the venue, it drowned Jenna out at times. // 7
Perfomance: Tonight Alive took the stage over a recorded version of "Eject! Eject! Eject!", their album intro (Jenna bounced out from back stage with a 'HELLO NEW ZEALAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!') and launched straight into "Breaking & Entering". The audience picked up with it immediately.
Other songs in their 40-minute set were "Starlight", "Wasting Away", "Amelia", "Let It Land", "Sure As Hell", "Fake It", "Reason To Sing" and "Listening". There were another couple of songs off an earlier EP which I didn't recognize.
Their set was near on flawless, the songs were flowed into each other smoothly, Jenna bantered with the audience, stole the hat off Cam's (bassist) head and wore it backwards, ordered us to "stick your middle fingers in the air!" and flew around the stage like she was mad. At one point she held onto one of the numerous brackets littering the ceiling and hung over the heads of the audience mid chorus. She did the whole hold-the-microphone-out-to-the-audience, hi-fived the many hands extended her way, slid to her knees, shared the microphone around, and basically played the perfect frontman. Vocally she was great, she did a couple of the high notes in falsetto as the show wore on, but she didn't really seem to run short on breath, a common problem amongst vocalists who spend half the show off the ground.
As usual with this band, the drummer (Matt Best) stood out for me because not only did he replicate his album drummer perfectly, but he played the showman too, flipping his sticks, playing one handed, and adding in some new fills. He got especially free with his bass drum too I can only assume he had some double kicks because he pulled some pretty tasteful bass drum fills out.
As for the rest of their band, their performance was great. They knew their stuff well, and on top of performing it accurately, they also started jumping together during all the right bits, and started a few of the songs facing the back of the stage before slingshotting to the front in the first bar or two. Both guitarists spent most of the show staring at their guitars, but did interact with the audience. Bassist Cam Adler was great fun too, communicating with the audience, stealing his hat back from Jenna during a sustained note, and bouncing around. // 10
Overall Impression: The show was on August 18th at Zeal West (NZ), which is probably the number-one all ages venue for small local bands in West Auckland. It's an abysmal pit of a place with pillars scattered around it, soundproofing stuck to everything flat (well, whatever hasn't been ripped off by the punk bands), and a roof that is just over two meters above the stage. The audience was disappointingly small no more than 120 people, but the venue only has room for just over 200, and the tiny audience made it feel very much like a punk show, which was cool.
Given that tickets were $10 NZ, which amounts to something like $8US, it was more than worth the value - I would have paid a hell of a lot more - although the opening bands let them down badly. I would go see the next TA show without hesitation.
On balance, it was a great show in terms of what Tonight Alive did. Having been to much bigger shows (I saw Parkway on December 12 and up the front of the stage, you couldn't move, and we sweat right through out jeans to the point where we wrung them out after the show), the show lacked audience rapport and at the risk of sounding sexist, go to a show where a good half of the audience are teenage girls and they all stand there watching and give you evil looks when you collide with them (Myself, my four friends, 2 other young guys and a couple of other stragglers created a mosh pit and were congratulated for the effort by Jenna, who then ordered us to make a circle pit, which we happily did). The audience screamed at the right bits, and on the odd occasion jumped up and down, but only after being promped by Jenna, and usually fizzled out after a bar or two.
The show was packed with memorable moments - Jenna hanging off the ceiling, Jenna and Cam's rapport and antics with a baseball cap, Matt's drum fills, "Breaking & Entering" as a whole, and Jenna's remarkable and relentless stage presence, I just thought this show was jam packed with fun and skill. I only wish I had seem them with a bigger and more enthusiastic audience.
The signing after the show was cool also they were more than happy to sign shirts, CD's, arms, and anything else asked of them. Jenna obliged to take pictures with half the line, and the rest of the band members were more than happy to chat whilst the line caught up. Matt Best (who is quite possibly my favourite member, barring perhaps Jenna) divulged some fun touring stories from Warped and basically seemed to be an all-around good bloke.
I would give the show 10 (and I mean that objectively - I'm not a die-hard TA fanboy, it was that show that converted me), but the audience was a massive let-down. // 9