Tonight Alive + Decade + Set It Off @ The Institute, Birmingham – Tuesday 1st October, 2013


Review & Photos by Russ Tierney

DecadeUp first are Bath based Decade who keep the mid noughties well and truly alive with their scene inspired pop punk.  Front man Alex Sears has a voice that in tonight’s mix sounds so vast that it almost feels harmonised and layered alone; which is then only accented by their baseball cap wielding guitarist stage left on backing vox.

The band are extremely tight despite utilising the whole of the stage and the air above it.  You feel they’re well seasoned, rounded and have been on the road for years.  It’s a dated sound but one that new generations of kids are happily latching on to as an introduction to rock, and you can’t argue with their execution and love for it.  They may well be first up tonight but a good proportion of the audience are 100% behind them, and they talk free with their audience get the crowd on side with ease.  A perfect kick starter to tonight’s proceedings.

In this intercontinental show, it’s now the turn of the Americans who typically have the philosophy of go big or go home.  Set It Off, as the names suggests, don’t hold back, and it’s knackering just watching the energy that’s flowing up on the stage in their ‘Hives’ get up.  They instantly have the crowd in the palm over their hand, so it’s no surprise they were highly tipped to me on entry as ones to watch too.

The members literally only stand still long enough to execute backing vocals, and then it’s because the axe men have no choice but be joined to a microphone stands; ones that are flanking the far edges of the stage so the rest in the middle can be a playground.  That not being big enough, before 3 songs are up, their front man Cody leaves the stage and joins the crowd at the barrier on several occasions before in the third when he out and out crowd dives from it.  By now the sound at the Institute is thunderous and deafening.  The guitars are getting lost in the mix, but with the sheer presence, melodies and groove laden tight drumming, no one really cares. Even drummer Maxx gets restless leg syndrome and uses any excuse to flail them about during the break down quieter moments.  It’s hard not to smile while watching Set It Off, and by the end of the set Cody can yet again be found standing on shoulders in the audience and using the lighting rig to steady his balance.


Our headliners are Australian emo pop punkers Tonight Alive.  The jury is still out as to whether they appreciate their Paramore comparisons, but they are unavoidable, and while Paramore are exploring indie electro vibes these days, Tonight Alive feel more authentic and wear their pop punk roots on their sleeves.  Feisty front woman Jenna McDougall is a little ball of energy throwing some boxing shaped dance moves, asking the crowd to ‘put it up’ while unleashing ‘the guns’, and all that before exclaiming “a big fuck you” to anyone that would want to try and hold you back.  Any fears of these guys struggling to follow ‘Set It Off’ are not only forgotten, but never questioned.  Much like the others on tonight’s bill, they’re tight and feel like the road has served them well.  To add to their appeal, they seem humbled to be attracting people to their show from the other side of the world, although it’s still hard to understand why they’re not gracing bigger stages for headline sets over here too.

Tonight AliveThe last time I saw these guys were amongst 1000’s of screaming teenagers on the Kerrang tour, and with their masterful execution tonight, it’s hard to see why it hadn’t sold out… I guess they’re just unfortunately a touch late with their love of the genre.  Having said that, we’re very much of the new generation where lighters are replaced with mobiles, and the younger crowd tonight is equally, errr, alive, well and exceptionally responsive and loud.  Nearing the end of their set now with their groove laden latest single “Lonely Girl’, you don’t feel they’re covering overly trodden ground, and I still feel they should be a pop punk powerhouse on these shores… in fact, the only thing Tonight Alive managed to do wrong was when Jenna walked out with a blue and white scarf, when of course we all know it should have been Claret and Blue…

You may not be a huge fan of the genre on display at the Institute tonight (it‘s not my first choice either), but then who cares?  You weren’t here!?  With the energy of the line up, and the intimacy of the Library room at the Institute tonight, you feel you witnessed something awesome and that you’d be hard pushed to find a more fitting example of what a rock gig should be like; certainly one of the modern day.


See more of Russ’s photos here;