As the world turns and people continue to flit from one fad to the next, it does us good to remember that there is the occasional sub-culture where musicians don’t cultivate a “controversial” image for the sake of record sales, don’t shag anything that moves in order to get publicity and, shock horror, do make music to a steady flow of loyal fans, thus enjoying careers that last 25 years instead of 25 months.
Mike Peters is one of these righteous troubadours, having conquered the world in the ’80s as frontman of The Alarm (how many British bands can say they played to tens of thousands in the US?) and steadily maintained and grown his fanbase during the ’90s as a solo artist.
Now, in 2004, he’s using The Alarm name again and has just had arguably his most impressive feat of all: entering the UK Top 30, 16 years after the last time. He had to pretend it wasn’t The Alarm to do it, mind. But that’s another story…
Tonight’s first of two sold-out shows at London’s La Scala was impressive in every way imaginable. Mike Peters and his mightily able band (former Gene Loves Jezebel/The Cult guitarist James Stevenson; former The Mission/Sisters Of Mercy/Cult bassist Craig Adams and former Stiff Little Fingers drummer Steve Grantley) may be old-hands at performing live but they showed that they’ve still got a few tricks to teach the young puppies.
As with the old (and some would say “real”) incarnation of The Alarm, they rock live. Classics like Rain In The Summertime and Rescue Me, once cool but fairly middle-of-the-road numbers on record, were given a new lease of life as the guitars came out in full force and Peters bounded around the stage like a man half his age.
Meanwhile, early ’80s slices of Clash-influenced genius like 68 Guns and Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke? (the latter surely the blueprint for every Levellers song ever written) were delivered with a new found energy and their anthemic quality enhanced even further.
In fact, I’ve rarely witnessed a gig of so many crowd-pleasers in a venue of this size. Alarm fans are nothing if not passionate and every lyric (and I mean, every lyric) was sung not by Peters alone, but with several hundred backing vocalists too. This included numbers to be found on the forthcoming In The Poppyfields album – Close and the Spirit Of ’76-alike Drunk And Disorderly – as well as the single 45 RPM, which is the best slice of punk / oi! mayhem you’ll hear this side of 1977.
Notable moments of poignancy came when the band covered In A Big Country and dedicated it to the late Stuart Adamson, and when Peters returned for the encore, acoustic guitar in hand, to sing A New South Wales with the first verse and chorus in Welsh (well, it was St David’s Day).
As the last chords of yet another bombastic, rollicking tune rang out, all that was left to do was to contemplate on how few “modern” bands do proper crowd-pleasing (rather than self-pleasing) shows like this and treat their fans with such respect (there was a 15-minute mid-gig interval to sign autographs!). I guess they just don’t make rock stars like they used to…