The queue for London’s iconic venue KOKO tonight is snaking past the stage door, back across the road, and down alongside the rows of bars and kebab shops that line Camden’s bustling streets. It’s a diverse crowd; teenage girls clad head-to-toe in band merch stand alongside tall bearded types who look like they might have gotten lost on the way to a Coheed & Cambria show. Still, all are here for tonight’s pop punk triple bill, headlined by Australia’s Tonight Alive.
Taking to the stage first are Eastbourne’s The Gospel Youth . These guys aren’t your run-of-the-mill pop-punk band – more Deaf Havana than Neck Deep, their songs are packed with soulful vocals, emotive lyrics, and a ton of heart. Endearingly awkward frontman Sam Little (who dons a shirt emblazoned with the words “SAD AS FUCK”, a sentiment that probably resonates with a lot of the crowd tonight) pours himself into every song with honesty and rawness, and there’s an electric energy emanating from the rest of the band. They don’t leap around the stage as is customary for bands of their genre, but they don’t need to, as their songcraft takes centre stage, particularly the stirring ‘Wildfire’ which produces the biggest sing-a-long of their set.
Up next are fellow Eastbourne lads ROAM , who receive a warm welcome from the crowd as they plunge straight into a set jam packed with slabs of retro feeling, New Found Glory-esque pop-punk. They’re quite heavy on the ‘pop’ side of things, particularly on bouncy, tuneful single ‘Playing Fiction’, although ‘Deadweight’ is fast and furious, and brings the first circle pit of the night. The vocals from Alex Costello and Alex Adam are a bit pitchy, and things could do with tightening up around the edges, but you can’t fault them for liveliness, and the songs themselves are infectious and fun as hell.
It’s evident from the sheer amount of t-shirts on display that the majority of the crowd are here for Sydney’s own Tonight Alive . They take to the stage to the beginning, electronica-infused bars of the moody, atmospheric ‘Book Of Love’, the opening track from the band’s latest album, ‘Underworld’. It’s a solid start, and the band launch straight into a double whammy of ‘Lonely Girl’ and ‘The Ocean’ – it’s evident that they’ve come prepared with a setlist full of bangers.
It’s hard to take your eyes off of enigmatic frontwoman Jenna McDougall, as she darts about the stage, climbing on monitors and gesturing at the crowd. She effortlessly leads the crowd in sing-a-longs to fan favourites ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ and ‘World Away’, and doesn’t hesitate to dish out life advice and brief motivational speeches, which admittedly at times feels a bit like rambling, but the crowd lap it up. What is heart warming to see is the genuine connection that Tonight Alive clearly have with their fans; a connection encapsulated when one fan proposes to her girlfriend on stage during ballad ‘For You’, as McDougall explains that the couple actually met at one of their shows four years ago. Nyaww.
Being that this tour is named after the band’s most recent album, you’d expect the band’s set to be heavy on material from their latest effort, yet strangely ‘Underworld’ tracks make up less than a third of the setlist. This doesn’t seem to bother the crowd in the slightest, however. In fact, the emotional high points come from two tracks taken from 2013’s ‘The Other Side’: an acoustic rendition of ‘Say Please’, and the record’s titular moving break-up anthem, both of which inspire a huge reaction.
As the last chords of the triumphant ‘Temple’ ring out and the throng begins to file out the doors, Tonight Alive can leave confident that they’ve delivered a solid show to one of pop-punk’s most loyal and dedicated fanbases.
Written by Lottie Cook (@pixelottie)