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Live Review: Tonight Alive, Sydney 2016

Tonight Alive / D At Sea
The Metro Theatre, Sydney 29/01/2016
Review: Peyton Bernhardt | Photos: Billy Zammit

It’s official. “You’re The Voice” is now the anthem of Australia’s alternative scene. From the throng of sweaty, dirt-encrusted fans chorusing “Ohhh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” between sets at this year’s UNIFY Gathering to the crowd at Tonight Alive’s Sydney headline show, Aussie audiences apparently have a weakness in their hearts for a little John Farnham when it comes to getting stoked. But don’t worry – this was a show to be stoked on.

Kinship reigned with support act D At Sea (aka Doyle Perez) praising Tonight Alive throughout the play-through of his catalogue of covers. Bieber hit “Love Yourself” launched the Friday night show, its lyrics humbly edited by Perez to clarify its take-home message: “You should go and fuck yourself”. Regardless of the fact that as of 2015, liking the Biebs is no longer shameful, you’ll be pleased to know that Perez’s cover of Bring Me The Horizon’s “Drown” was welcomed with a much more enthusiastic sing-along. Dropping in only one of his own cuts (“Pop, Flip, Catch”), Perez rattled off scene hits like the poster boy for a Fearless compilation. Poking fun at his own work, Of Mice & Men’s “Second And Sebring” featured a somewhat unsuccessful circle pit attempt, while Thy Art Is Murder’s “Reign Of Darkness” was prefaced by a prompt to mosh (though post-faced by a sneaky Justin Timberlake insert). The set closed with a wall of hugs, because why not force affectionate human contact if everyone is sweaty anyway?

A 40-minute interval and Tonight Alive were launching into fresh release “To Be Free” to immediate praise from their audience. Interestingly, despite lashing online criticism of their Alanis-oriented direction, the new songs played (“Human Interaction”, “Drive”, “How Does It Feel?”) were embraced with open, albeit perspiring, arms. Apparently the fans in attendance weren’t the ones commenting on YouTube videos, as they joyfully accepted frontwoman Jenna McDougall shutting the door on The Other Side and welcoming them “to the Limitless era”.

Despite the show’s purpose being allocated to previewing Limitless, Tonight Alive played for their attending fans, not their running promo campaign. To that end, “Hell And Back” was dedicated to “anyone who [has] ever been in a dark place” and “Closer” was featured as a surprise for those who had requested it “aggressively”. Both “Closer” and “Breaking And Entering” were unleashed with McDougall cross-legged centre stage, accompanied by Whakaio Taahi on acoustic guitar. The sold-out venue’s atmosphere was transformed instantly, from simply chaotic to calmingly intimate, as audience members tossed around ribbons and united their hands for a clap-along.

The show’s standout moments included Tonight Alive inviting Spiderman onstage for their soundtrack contribution “The Edge”, and McDougall introducing “Wasting Away” with a prompt to pack away phones and acknowledge what she had to say. “If you don’t believe your life has a purpose, you’re fucking lying to yourself,” she preached, “because the universe doesn’t make mistakes”.

If you didn’t cry during “Amelia”, you’d surely tear up when a room full of people that were different, but in the end, the same, yelled at the universe to recognise that they “always have a say” in what happens to them. If that’s what Tonight Alive’s Limitless era is all about – bringing people together and forcing them to recognise their value in this strange little world of ours – then it’s no wonder there wasn’t a ticket left to scalp for their hometown show.

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