This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of The Alarm’s ‘Strength’ album, and at the time they were mixing with the likes of U2 in stadiums around the world. Thirty years on and Mike Peters is still promoting all things Alarm, despite some serious personal health problems, but he looks very well and remains one of the most personable people you’re ever likely to meet.
The venue is a first for Birmingham Live. The Marrs Bar is one of the only venues for decent live music is Worcester, which is bad enough, but parking isn’t great (it’s located up a one-way street) and from past experience trying to get tickets is akin to a round on the Krypton Factor (if you’re too young ask a parent). However, it’s cosy (holds about 150) and has a good range of ale at very good prices.
There is no support tonight (just as well as the doors don’t open until turned eight o’clock) and as the venue website is down it was a little bit of guesswork as to what time to arrive. There are three microphones on stage, but tonight it’s just Mike himself, and to be honest he doesn’t need anyone else. He has plenty of gadgets and technology to create a full sound and replication of the songs, and plays Irish drum, keyboards, harmonica and acoustic guitar. He re-works the songs, but the spirt and lyrics are as potent today as they ever were.
To start Mike offers a selection of songs from his huge back catalogue, opening with “Majority” Mike is in good fettle, and he gives a background to each song, what inspired it (talks with my Dad for “ Father to Son”); down to the hotel they may have been written in (somewhere in Newcastle for “Strength” which also saw him and a colleague caught by the police when they were trying to find a guitar in the tour van, the situation made slightly more worse for the fact they were both just wearing towels around their waists!)
He’s a natural storyteller and someone you could listen to for hours. He has nothing to prove, he’s been there and done it, but where some may try to name-drop Mike just tells great stories. Before “Where Were You Hiding” he tells of the time he was the first punk in Wales, and was diving around the dancefloors to The Jam’s “In the City” (which he plays a chorus of).
Throughout the night the love is clear and the audience sing along (and fill in on some of the parts Dave Sharp used to sing) and it really is a great vibe. The whole of the ‘Strength’ album is played but is a mixed order and it’s been re-recorded for release (including a very nice limited signed red vinyl edition).
Finally after two hours the traditional set closer of “Blaze of Glory” brings the night to an end, but the very final song is by the audience to Mike, “Happy Birthday” as it was Mike’s birthday the previous day. He’s touched and thanks everyone, and for sticking with him through the years.
This was the opening night of the tour, and the UK leg ends back in Birmingham (which I believe is sold out). At each gig now is a chance for people to register for Bone Marrow Donation, following Mike’s own personal health battles and the LoveHopeStrength charity he set up in 2007. Since that time over 100 000 people have registered and over 2000 matches made. This says so much about Mike Peters.
One Step Closer
The Black Side of Fortune
The Chant Has Just Begun
Father to Son
Only the Thunder Knows
The Day the Ravens Left the Tower
Walk Forever By My Side
Where Were You Hiding (When the Storm Broke)
Blaze of Glory
Review: Glenn Raybone
Photographs: Katie Foulkes