After a pretty decent Friday, it was time for the main event. entering the Arena early Peters played the lucky first few hundred a sneak preview of a track off the next album and taking some questions from the audience and a few requests it was on with the show as Ryan Hamilton was up first. Accompanied tonight by his piano player Carol Hodge Ryan sadly was without his Harlequin Ghosts which was a shame but with the audience starting to turn up and the Alarm audience being notoriously partisan some might see it as a tough crowd because lets be honest here a lot of these people are here to see one man and hear his songs which is fine but I can’t help but feel they might be kinda missing out, anyway. There are some in tonight who were no doubt impressed by his stint on the recent Alarm tour and want to see and hear what he might have to offer stripped down to acoustic guitar and piano so after a couple of unfamiliar new tunes he tried the old trick of playing something he knew most people in here would know and like so playing ‘Desire’ by U2 was a good move which brought a few people in further to investigate.
Its fair to say Ryan can talk and when time is of the essence there is a balance to strike and I think Ryan was acutely aware of this as he referred to the very same problem but having banter is great and endearing but I want to hear what you’ve got sir so ‘Smarter’ sounded great as did ‘Karaoke With No Crowd’ now we were getting somewhere Hamilton has clearly enjoyed his time hanging with Team Alarm and it was great to see him perform at the Gathering maybe next time come back and bring those other three with you and rock the house because the set was brief and by the time ‘Raise Your Hands’ was played we were just warming up.
Ok also on the bill tonight was 80’s pop-rock combo Then Jerico or as they were called Mark Shaws Then Jerico. Now I’ll hold my hands up and admit that growing up through the 80’s I was obviously aware of who Then Jerico was and I believe one of my siblings did indeed own ‘Big Area’ but I never investigated their music and they weren’t my thing at all. Shaw had a lot of energy on stage much like he did in the ’80s and to be fair he didn’t look like the years have been unkind to him and yes, of course, they played ‘The Motive’ and saved ‘Big Area’ til the end and no doubt some ladies seemed jolly pleased they played and got the chance to ‘Mam Dance’ a little.
right onto the main event and tonight, the stage is decked out in tin foil. Why? I have no idea but it was all shiny and when the band took the stage in matching jackets they must have been chuffed when the house lights tried to cook them at what must have seemed 190 without being fan assisted.
With the line up of Smiley on the drums, James on Bass and occasional guitar and mikes wife Jules playing keyboards the main bulk of the stage was Peters as he ran from left to right singing into the three microphones on the front of the stage. Now I’ve seen this line up perform at Cardiff University and felt underwhelmed but then a short while later they played the Thekla in Bristol same line up different set and were bloody superb so I didn’t have a clue what to expect again tonight maybe it would be down to what the setlist was as to how my mood would change. I do think I’d got used to James playing the guitar which to be fair he does superbly on old and new alarm track and I always loved Craig Adams style and his bass thump was thunderous and really added energy to any live show not to say James isn’t good (am I digging a hole here I can’t climb out of?) anyway maybe I feel there are talents not being 100% utilised here maybe that’s my take on things but like I said this line up has also turned in some fantastic shows hell last years Saturday night was one of the best in twenty-seven years. Anyway, I do enjoy hearing both classics and new material whereas there are always a lot of attendees who just want to hear the classics and some even after all these years crave the original line up and turn up in the hope that this year will be the year it happens, haha. sadly not this year again ‘Coming Backwards’ sounds good and I do like ‘Peace Now’. From the last album ’13, Dead Raindeers’ was one of my favourites and it’s a nice riff. ‘Sold Me Down the River’ is up next and then its in the round for Peters who leaves the main stage to play ‘a few off ‘Declaration’ in the shape of ‘white Cross’ and ‘the Deceiver’ he then just about manages to knock out ‘Cenotaph’ before the gremlin get into the PA but not for the only time they rear their head.
The front of house sound decides it’s going to down tools. Anyway, Peters loves a challenge and tonight he decides to go out into the audience with his guitar and voice and move from side to side climbing into the seated area and sing ‘One Guitar’ or at least get the audience around him to sing it because only those near could hear. Still no sign of the PA coming back on as people begin to rummage round for coins for the meter to hopefully get the PA back on anyway being the resourceful sort PEters then rolls out a rendition of ‘Merry Christmas (War Is Over)’ yup a weird one on me too considering its February but hey why not.
With the impromptu break in proceedings, it means the band has to once again build up a head of steam so what better way than to break into ‘Spirit Of 76’ and we’re into the home straight but not before ‘Beautiful’ is aired from the excellent ‘Viral Black’ album. the band cruise into my favourite Alarm song ‘Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke’ to give it it’s full title or ‘WWYHWTSB’ as my notes say. which leaves 68 Guns and off they go.
I had no clue as to how long tonight’s encore might last I mean it could have been longer than the main set who knows nothing would surprise me at a Gathering. So I was surprised to be fair as this year there was no Craig Adams and the encore was a lean four songs ‘Neutral’, followed by ‘Strength’ then ‘Two Rivers’ then it was everyone on stage for a romp through ‘Get Down And Get With It’ oh and did I mention there was another power out? Oh well shit happens and the good ones don’t get phased by it they roll with the punches and that’s exactly what Peters did and once again it was a memorable Saturday night partly down to how they coped with adversity and partly because there are so many great songs to chose from I’m glad Mike writes new material and mixes up old with new and also is happy to play around with classic arrangments but not for the sake of it is why I keep going back, its always about the music – the music comes first and throughout my adult life the Gathering has been a constant good thing and I always look forward to the next one, as we debate what might go on and who will be there Its such a special Gathering for one of the hardest working musicians in the business whos taken the knocks and always got up and delivered. sure there have been off nights but who hasn’t one thing you always get with The Alarm is 100% and considering I’ve been privileged to see them play well into the three figures and I’ve heard ’68 Guns’ more times than should be legal I’ll be sat by the computer the second Gathering 2020 tickets go up for sale. Bring it on its yet again been a pleasure and never a chore.
Website for Gathering tickets and music: Here
Author: Dom Daley