(photo: Paul Bowman)
I remember a day 1983, walking through Belfast’s Corn market with 68 Guns in my Caroline Records bag. The Alarm were being talked about in the same sentence as U2. Declaration appeared and ticked all my earnest rock boxes:
“Come on down and meet your Maker
Come on down and make the stand”
Here was a band strutting the big stages with the spiritual and the political. And if anything, that debut record had more accessible anthems than U2 had come up with at that stage.
Thirty three years later and I am standing on Fountain Street in Belfast, outside the Voodoo Lounge, waiting to hear The Alarm singer Mike Peters for the very first time. For thirty of the years in between I wasn’t following The Alarm the way I had U2 - I had written no books about them!
With expectations low, in the tiniest and most intimate of settings I was blown away with the passion, the songs and how many of the songs I could sing along with in a small but Alarm obsessed crowd.
This was Mike Peters with guitar, loop pedals, the odd sample and a kick drum, re-imagining the glory days of 1983-86 and putting on a show full of energy, spirituality and hope.
I got lucky. This Tour has been about Peters doing the set that The Alarm beamed around the world on MTV in April 1986. It was a world event. Live at UCLA in California in front of 25,000 fans in the afternoon, satellite carried it to the UK in the evening and Japan in the morning. Ultimately what this meant was that I knew all the songs.
That was the second half. Because it had been well over a decade since his last Belfast show Peters decided to not stretch his welcome and did a first half that was basically a Storytellers edition of the early history of the band. He talked openly about the early days and played brilliant acoustic versions of the songs. Peters come a cross a pleasant individual without rock star graces. His voice is guttural and strong and his songs singable as heaven!
Particularly in recent years Mike Peters has spoken little about his Christian faith. Those early songs however are jam packed with Biblical images, verses and ideas; Jericho’s walls, reaping what you sow and even the IT IS FINISHED cry at the end of Shout To The Devil. Add that into an early 80s recession and this was, and is, potent stuff!
The overarching thread of the night and thus the early Alarm records was to commit, make your stand, march on, give it all…
"Give me love
Give me hope
Give me strength"
So, I left the Voodoo Lounge with a smile in my soul, some steel in my heart and my head reeling with great tunes. In my ears I can still hear the crowd chant…
Going out in a blaze of glory
My heart is open wide
You can take anything that you want from me
There is nothing left to hide
Going out in a blaze of glory
My hands are held up high
I'm learning how to hit back
I'm learning how to fight!
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be… it is about what it still can do now! I’m off to meet my maker… and make my stand!