Anyone who has ever been to an Alarm concert will know that the terrace-style choruses and feeling of like-minded, community spirit make it a touch akin to going to a football match, although with one crucial difference – your team always wins.
The Alarm gig at London’s Scala (not “Le Scala” as the DVD cover bizarrely states) on St David’s Day earlier this year was more like a triumphant testimonial game, where fans from far and wide went to pay tribute to Mike Peters and his cohorts and their extraordinary achievement of returning to the UK singles chart after 14 years away.
There was even an interval where fans could meet and greet the band, and as captured on this DVD, Peters thanks the crowd at the start of the second set “for all the kind words you had to say at half-time.”
Anyone who has ever been to an Alarm concert will also know that Mike Peters & co could teach some of our overpaid, underachieving football players a thing or two because, as this DVD demonstrates, The Alarm always give their live performances everything they have, or to use an intellectually-challenged football cliché, “they give 110%”.
Of course, live DVDs are inevitably fan-only affairs but anyone else who: a) is contemplating starting a rock band; b) appreciates superb live performances centred around, shock horror, songs and not costumes, light shows or sex; or c) is one of the over-cynical journalists who slagged off The Alarm in the mid-’80s, little realising they’d be still be filling out venues 20 years later, should watch, or in case c), be made to watch this recording.
Peters may be older and chubbier round the face than he was, but his voice is as pure and powerful as ever, while songs like Marching On and perennial fave 68 Guns simply improve with age.
The Alarm were/are one of rock’s more versatile groups too – their lack of pigeonhole-ability has probably worked against them – and whether they are doing anthemic, punchy rock (Unsafe Building, Knife Edge), punk with the twist of a heavy Bob Dylan influence (The Stand, Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?) or simple, acoustic folk music (A New South Wales, half-sung in Welsh; the Idris Davies poem, The Bells Of Rhymney), they always seem equally adept, equally at home, and equally as necessary to watch.
If I were to criticise this DVD I’d say that it would have been nice to have had more shots of the crowd, with their singing along higher in the mix. However, it is excellently recorded, perfectly capturing the poignancy of moments like Peters’ acoustic tribute to Big Country’s late Stuart Adamson; value for money (23 songs, 107 minutes, plus a bonus CD); and a no-frills affair that simply lets the music do the talking.
In other words, it’s a microcosm of Mike Peters and The Alarm’s career. As such, it will probably sound even better in 20 years’ time.