Whilst the joy of going to a concert is to see your heroes play all the old favourites and hits from the past, sometimes that comes with a twist. When Mike Peters of The Alarm looked at revisiting the band’s late-80s collection for his Hurricane of Change Tour, it became a very personal trip back, with just voice, his guitar and a drum.
Speaking ahead of the tour, Mike told me he was drawing parallels between the world as it was at that time and how it is today. “Everything is changing as it was in ’89. It was a different change then, the Berlin Wall was coming down and we were integrating more as Europe, there was an optimism in the air but I think that the semblance of change is at the core of these records and they still carry a lot of weight today. Playing these songs on my acoustic guitar will bring out something fresh in them. That’s what I’m looking forward to, seeing which songs connect with today’s audience and are most reflective of the times we’re living in. I think the parallels are going to be pretty powerful.”
And so it was. The 27-date tour took Mike to some unlikely places including arts centres, village halls, Holmefirth Picturedrome, the Library Theatre in Darwen, Bury Met and St Saviour’s Church in Retford, just south of Doncaster, for the final night of the tour. Such is the continued affection for Mike and The Alarm that 18 of the shows on the tour were sold out.
There was a rare intimacy about the whole event, the front row in touching distance of Mike and his guitar.
The performance itself was quite incredible with the concert split into two main acts. Act 1: ‘Downstream’ concentrated on the 1987 album Eye Of The Hurricane, albeit opening with Mike’s reflections on the destruction of the Welsh coal fields A New South Wales from the later Change album.
This first act became a musical journey through the former album taking in all the tracks and a smattering of new ones, all with carefully scripted introductions linking them as a whole. Tracks included, of course, New Town Jericho, Rain In The Summertime and One Step Closer To Home, some 19 songs in all taking close to an hour to deliver.
Where A Town Once Stood introduced Act 2: ‘Upstream’, which focused on the 1989 album Change. Act 2 featured a similarly scripted narrative, and the occasional recorded sound effect, linking the songs which included political comment in Corridors Of Power, How The Mighty Fall and Sold Me Down The River.
Standing alone, Mike’s energy and stamina were astonishing, his guitar creating delicate passages of exquisite beauty one moment, and a stomping riff, as he accompanied himself with a bass drum, the next. For a little added colour there was also the occasional harmonica accompaniment. It is also amazing how different these familiar songs sound, arranged for a solo performance and how, without the band, one focuses more on the lyrical content.
Act 3: ‘Encore’ and time for the audience to let their hair down. Mike has already performed 37 songs in a little under two hours. This final act centres around The Alarm’s live Electric Folklore album and features their classics Strength, Spirit Of ‘76 and Blaze Of Glory. He also invites requests from the audience and there is no shortage of takers.
Only The Thunder, Mike says, is one he has not played for some time, but the crowd love it and requests continue, 12 more songs in all for his encore, finishing with Marching On, the rousing anthem 68 Guns and, finally, Walk Forever by My Side.
Without the band, there is nowhere to hide, no support, it is all about one man, his voice and his guitar. At the end of the day, a good song will always be a good song and Mike Peters’ songs have so much to say.