Tonight Alive + The Summer Set + Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! @ Birmingham Institute – Friday 28th November 2014

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Review & photos by Russ Tierney

We have a couple of gigs happening at the Institute tonight and the optimistic early doors sails past as we’re all forced to be social or run around looking confused while some look for the right queue for the right gig. Fortunately ‘Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!‘ are not due to hit the stage until 50 minutes after doors, and by the time they do the Institute is pretty busy. From Paris, we can almost forgive the somewhat crazy name that I’m still none the wiser as to what it alludes to, but their ‘French easycore’ mixes pop punk with slabs of post hardcore screams and rhythm work.

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!

Despite being of the language of love, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! sing in English and ask the audience to come and chat with them at the merch stall later so they can hear our ‘classy’ accents… they said this for real while having claimed they’ve been to Birmingham before!? Anyways, the guys continue to bounce around the stage playing songs from their latest album Pardon My French while throwing in a cover of Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’. They’re a slice of fun and tonight’s young teenage audience seem quite receptive, but then equally a big cheer goes up when a Panic At The Disco’s song comes on over the PA between bands.

Up next The Summer Set are almost a strange mix of Bruno Mars and guitars, dare I even suggest the frontman reminds me of Justin Bieber a little? This is echo’d by their (decent) cover of ‘Sing!’ by Ed Sheeran/Pharrel Williams, plus with crowd encouragement such as “sing it to your best friend”, it’s all a bit too sickly sweet. I have nothing against pop music, and I quite like Bruno Mars, but in the context of a rock gig it all seems a bit wrong. They’re not bad, and the easy on the ear pretty boy pop rock is being lapped up by the strong young girl contingent of tonight’s audience, but they’re just not very Midlands Rocks, so we’ll move on.

The Summer Set
The Summer Set

With incense sticks burning at the front of the stage and blue flashes of light and strobes accompanying an intro tape of faint sirens, Aussie quintet Tonight Alive hit the stage. Front woman Jenna is her usual active self sporting a backwards cap and looking to connect with the audience. Originally billed for the downstairs room of the Library, the show quickly got promoted to the main room before selling out here with plenty of notice too. Maybe it’s the atmosphere of a bigger room and a younger audience, but the set feels slightly less driven than last time as I sense a more mature softer vibe than the emo tinged pop punk that I’ve grown to associate with these guys… or maybe I’m simply just not as familiar with some of the songs on offer tonight.

For me ‘Wasting Away’ is a highlight which comes shortly before Jenna straps on an acoustic and demonstrates her vocal prowess in ‘Let It Land’ while prompting the crowd to get involved. Still only accompanied by her acoustic, next she touchingly tries to find the words to reminisce about the time the band spent with local hero Stephan Sutton at last years show, to which you could have heard a pin drop. Cheers eventually ring out as she toasts a shot of Jager to Stephen and asks the crowd to raise their thumbs in the air to him.

Tonight Alive
Tonight Alive

‘Listening’ is another personal favourite, while a call for a circle pit in ‘No Different’ falls kinda flat with the young audience, managing only to rouse a few seconds of concern on the medics face before he gets bored of the crowd barrier steps and returns to post. Jenna turns life coach and philosopher while introducing ‘What Are You So Scared Of’, which they wrote on the brink of fame yet experiencing friction equally. She (as does the song) reminds us that we must work hard for out goals and not lose days worrying about the judgement of others… and people say these rock stars are a bad influence on our kids eh?

They wrap up the show with ‘Lonely Girl’ before a returning encore of the infectious ‘Breaking And Entering’ and the slightly less show stopping ‘The Other Side’ truly finishes proceedings. Showing their appreciation to the audience, various members head down to the crowd barrier for hugs and handshakes while those remaining on stage throw out everything that isn’t nailed down short of the instruments.

See more of Russ’ photos here