This post is in response to a recent post by ZRM in which he wrote: Uh-oh. Looks like it’s gonna be an Alarm night before posting the video for one of my personal faves, Spirit of '76. I've referenced The Alarm in a couple of posts, but I'm in a nostalgic mood, so I'll revist my favorite Welsh band.
It's funny that, in his response to the comment that I'm expanding into this post, ZRM wrote:
I have always been much more affectionate toward the Alarm than, say, U2. U2′s social attitudes seem so much more like a posture, their Dublin working class background notwithstanding. Mike Peters and his band seemed more true in their expressions, if less artful.
I almost always go for passion over gormless skill. Shocking, is it not?
Which is eerily reminiscent of my brother Sweetums' characterization of the band: "The Alarm is kinda like U2, but just a little bit better." I've always felt that The Alarm never made it to the heights that U2 did because the Irish-American community in the U.S. is larger and more cohesive than the Welsh community here. Hell, much of my early championing of U2 was due to my perception of a shared heritage. Don't get me wrong, though, I love the Welsh, and have ever since discovering Lloyd Alexander's books. Anyway, The Alarm played a few big stadium shows back in the 80's and skirted superstar status before losing steam Rain in the Summertime still gets occasional airplay and I've heard the instrumental portion used as "bed" music.
Anyway, back in 2003, lead singer Mike Peters, who had successfully waged a struggle against cancer, formed a "reconstituted" Alarm with former members of Stiff Little Fingers and Sisters of Mercy and embarked on a whirlwind tour which saw the band playing three back-to-back-to-back weekly shows in New York and L.A. My high school friend J-Co picked up four tickets for each of the three shows at New York's Knitting Factory. J-Co and I attended all three of the shows, with a revolving cast of family and friends joining us.
Each night's performance was a tour de force, Mike Peters sang his heart out in the intimate Knitting Factory as if he were still doing big stadium tours. He knew he was playing to a friendly audience, and he had enough confidence in his fans to (in very ballsy fashion) surrender the mic to the crowd as they sang a chorus out loud. Luckily, somebody got footage from the 2003 concerts.
Here's an English version of Bastard-approved Gwerthoch Fi I Lawr Yr Afon:
Here's the classic Sixty-Eight Guns from the band's first LP (google the term, kids!):
Here's the poignant One Step Closer to Home:
While not footage from the 2003 tour, one of the emotional high points of the concert was when Mike Peters commemorated his friend Stuart Adamson, who had succumbed to chronic depression and took his life in 2001, by performing Stuart's signature song:
Besides his old material, Mike Peters performed new material which was extraordinarily well received:
For the record, I think my all time favorite Alarm song is Howling Wind, from the first album. The first line of the song still gives me goosebumps- "Love on this wasteland holds no dominion." Sheer poetry! Here's a version from the original lineup's farewell tour in 1991:
I composed this post in the pre-dawn hours at the tail end of a double overnight shift-I find myself in reverie... I am nostalgic for a 2003 nostalgia trip.
UPDATE: I can't believe I omitted the fact that, after all three shows, I got to hang out at the bar with Mike Peters, who is a hell of a nice guy. It was really nice to be able to shake his hand, thank him for writing a ton of music which was a large part of my adolescent experience, and have him thank me for my support. Mike Peters- definitely a GOOD GUY.