photo: Colin Hopkins
The last time Mike Peters was in Belfast, it was him and his guitar and kick drum contraption that he used to the full. There were stories between songs. This gig was different. This was the current Alarm, James Stevenson ex Gen X and The Cult on bass and guitars, Smiley who played this very stage with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, and Jules Jones Peters on keys. Stevenson and Smiley crack out a thumping thud of a rhythm, Smiley’s Strummer days giving it all a Clash sounding rawness.
They go at it for two hours without even the slightest breather. Conversation is rare tonight and when it comes the band are using transitioning from one anthem to the next. Anthems they are. From the oldest hits to the newest songs, Mike Peters creates a communal happening that is almost congregational. The Alarm family as he likes to call his fans know every part they need to sing.
But over all it is the lack of breather that is hard to comprehend. Peters has three mics, one left side of stage, one right and one centre and he moves from one to the other throughout. He shimmies and shakes, throws guitar poses and conducts the congregational sing. His body has been tough years of cancer treatment and yet here he is giving everything and a little more, his voice never flinching. Inspirational before we even get to to the songs.
For over thirty years Mike Peters has written songs about peace and love and hope. They are all about a better world that is fair and just and true. The energy that Peters pumps out is a positivity of spirit that is infectious and effective! If ever a band expressed in rock music the essence of Judeo Christianity’s idea of Shalom, it is The Alarm.
Peters cleverly mixes the old favourite sit the new. The new are no less crafted or powerful, Marching On, Blaze of Glory, The Stand and Strength stood alongside Peace Now, Dead Reindeer and Neutral. A new album coming soon should be as eagerly anticipated by Alarm fans as anything before it.
As I listened and marvelled at the vitality and communal connection I couldn't help think I was watching a mix of 70’s punk, 80’s big music and actually also the folk tradition of Woody Guthrie’s 40s and Bob Dylan’s early 60s. It’s an intoxicating are of goodness for the soul to imbibe!