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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Review: The Other Side Tour in NYC
Wednesday, November 06, 2013

By the time Tonight Alive had completed their set at The Studio at Webster Hall in NYC on Saturday night, crowd surfers had found themselves tossed around in various fashions, energy levels had reached near-hysteria, and everyone's ears were ringing.

The crowd had been rowdy, the band had been even rowdier, and the packed Studio at Webster Hall, with its low ceilings, and mass of sweaty bodies, had temporarily been transported back to a time when the majority of the crowd, and performers, hadn't even been born, as for a few hours everything worked together to create a classic CBGBs type of atmosphere.

The evening started with Los Angeles pop-rock foursome Echosmith, whose indie pop sound, that has hints of 80s influences, was the perfect lead in for the night. Even though the band has a less aggressive vibe, and lyrics that focus on hope, and love, their 80s influences, which were cranked up a notch, worked to jump start the night, making them a really good fit.

Even in the classic punk rock era shows featured bands that were more pop influenced (The Go-Go’s, Blondie), and while watching Echosmith perform I felt that kind of vibe from them, that they’re the type of band that is pop-rock, but still works on a bill with bands that play a more aggressive style of music (though this is not to say they sound anything like those aforementioned bands). Additionally, songs like “Cool Kids” are definitely for the “others,” and that’s something that’s completely in line with the punk rock ethos.

After a short break For The Foxes hit the stage. Although the band has a decidedly 80s vibe when it comes to their recordings, the majority of that influence didn’t come through in their performance, as they focused on the rock elements of their music. I can understand why, for a show like this, they’d do that, but at times it felt like they were lacking what makes them unique.

Admittedly, For The Foxes were in a tough position, being the band that had to transition the crowd from Echosmith to The Downtown Fiction and Tonight Alive, so they probably had to tweak some things to make sure there was a continued build up in emotion, and sound. Their set had its highs and lows, fast moments, and slow moments, and I will say that although I wasn’t necessarily into everything they performed, they closed strong, leaving on a positive note. They also seemed to please their fans, and that’s the most important thing.

The Downtown Fiction were up next, and the pop-rock band cranked up the rock aspect of their music starting with their opening song, and never dialed it down. They seemed to understand that the place was packed with a rock crowd, and that in order to inspire that crowd they were going to have to kick a little ass.

As it would turn out, in addition to being a rock crowd, it was also a bit of a Downtown Fiction crowd, as there was a boisterous sing-along to the chorus of “Thanks For Nothing.” That alone was enough to get the attention of those unfamiliar with the band. By the time they wrapped everything up with “I Just Wanna Run” The Downtown Fiction had not only pleased their fans, they’d earned a few new ones, and rocked hard enough to be the perfect lead-in for Tonight Alive.

When Tonight Alive hit the stage there was an instant spark of energy and emotion in the room. Donning a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt, lead singer Jenna McDougall quickly threw conventional notions of beauty out the window, as just a few songs into the band’s set she was soaked in sweat, with a wide smile visible through the green hair that was sticking to her face (green hair for which she had a matching green microphone). No one in the building would have told you she looked anything other than amazing.

Playfully taunting the crowd after the band’s third song, McDougall, said, “C’mon New York, is that all you got?” Immediately, bodies started flying through the air as Tonight Alive did Spinal Tap proud by cranking everything up to eleven.

This was my third time seeing Tonight Alive, and with each show their sound has become louder, and harder. They are officially a rock band that not only can kick an audience’s ass, they enjoy kicking an audience’s ass, and the audience shows their appreciation in full by crowd surfing and singing along. It’s an exchange of crazed energy that happens during each song as the band, and the crowd, continually challenge each other to go harder.

For this show, Tonight Alive’s set had a nice mix of music from their new album, The Other Side, and their 2012 debut, What Are You So Scared Of?, closing with a personal favorite of mine, “Breaking & Entering.”

The band only slowed things down once, to perform “Amelia” mid-set. The touching ballad, that still rocks pretty hard, gave the crowd a chance to gather themselves for the second half of the set.

Earlier in the year I compared McDougall to a young Pat Benatar. Not only do I feel that comparison still holds true, I’d like to add something to it. Jenna McDougall has become one of the quintessential female lead singers in rock music today. Powerful, unafraid, and overflowing with personality, she is a woman who one can easily imagine Debbie Harry, at the height of Blondie’s fame, having a drink with in a graffiti covered bar.

At one point on Saturday night a female crowd surfer made her way, on top of a sea of bodies, to the front of the room, and with an outstretched arm, reached towards McDougall. McDougall, mid-song, reached out to her, as well. The image was a microcosm of Tonight Alive’s set, and their ideology. The anarchy of the crowd surfing with the appreciation showed for one another.

Saturday’s show in NYC was reportedly the first time the Aussie band had sold out a show as a headliner in the US. With their continued growth, and performances like this, they should expect many more packed houses.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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