All roads lead North as this scribe makes the twenty-sixth consecutive January trip for a weekend of all things Alarm and Mike Peters.  This one’s been hashtagged #Thiscouldbethelasttime so something was up but what exactly? As we enter the arena for the Friday nights performance it was no ordinary concert this one was more an experience. This one was with a twist, no not the original drummer but a performance split into three acts, first up – MIKE PETERS AND THE HURRICANE OF CHANGE Performing ‘DOWNSTREAM’.  A bold attempt at mixing the monologue performed by Sean Jones (Blood Brothers, Macbeth) who weaved his way through the audience around the venue whilst the band played reconstructed songs from Peter’s back catalogue. ‘Newtown Jericho’ sparked the Rebecca Riots that moved through the audience that worked well.  Act One closed with the Sharp classic ‘One Step Closer To Home’ which reunited Peters with original songwriter, the song always sends a shiver down my spine no matter how many times I’ve heard it tonight was particularly good.

Every year the Gathering has been split into Friday night – a looser mostly acoustic affair sometimes in the round, a more eclectic evening where Peters has attempted to push himself in different directions sometimes it worked amazingly well other more interesting or full of new unheard material but never the same. 

It’s a bit of a free shot to be fair seeing as the tables have been turned and fans have travelled from near and far to Peters home area for almost three decades and have gone with whatever has been thrown their way with Saturday being a day filled with Alarm related fanboy activities and then Saturday night is the more traditional show often of Springsteen length performances.

So, back to Hurricane Of Change whilst Sean Jones narrated using Alarm lyrics from that specific period it was interesting and it was out there as far as performances go. It was maybe something of a work in progress to be fair. Whilst it can be rehearsed you’ll never know until you get out there in front (or amongst) a live audience.

When finely tuned maybe it will work really well.  Maybe something for S4C or BBC to do on TV where it can be cut and edited where the idea would be amazing. Rather than just knock out an acoustic show (which would have been suffice and safe) Peters doesn’t do safe so I’d take this every night of the week.  A Bold and brave move and certainly interesting viewing.

I’m not particularly a fan of bands who chew up their back catalogue (usually) to keep it interesting for themselves and the audience but I guess the old adage of damned if you do would certainly apply to the Gathering.  Play the same old same old year after year might please many so I get why this has been split into three parts tonight and as ambitious as it is. It’s cool to see it first and maybe next time it’ll be tweaked and be a lot smoother but that’s no criticism. it is a lot to take in and it was great to see Dave Sharp make another cameo appearance as he joined in with tonight’s band -that saw George Williams playing keys and bass for the performance alongside Smiley, James and Jules.

If I had to pick a favourite moment To be fair part three was excellent, people held up cards with a song request on it and Peters played it. Tonight we got some songs that he hasn’t played in a while and it was great to hear old classics like ‘Lie Of The Land’ and especially ‘What Kind Of Hell’.

The elephant in the room had nothing to do with music tonight with it being the 31st of January.  We were reminded that tonight was Brexit and at eleven Big ben would bong. A moment marked on the big screens.  Not particularly something many gave a shit about and it would seem more didn’t even want but on the hour Big Ben bonged and it was a bit of a deflator to be honest even if the ridiculousl=ness was poignantly marked by playing Python.  Going back to what was a highlight from tonight was it seemed right to play ‘Day The Ravens Left The Tower’ and ‘The Deceiver’ back to back and then to follow it up with a rousing ‘Rocking In The Free World’ which only left ‘Walk Forever By My Side’ and the classic ’68 Guns’ to close the Friday night. A pretty decent opener for the weekend to be fair, bring on a good night’s sleep and see what the Saturday night brings. ITs always a pleasure to be in Venue Cymru on Gathering Friday.

For those early birds, you can fill your day totally fanboying out on all things Mike Peters and the Alarm I’d recommend it at least once it can be great fun and a good way to meet and greet friends old and new.

The doors swing open at 10.00 when 21st Century Film – SECRET CINEMA is in operation with a secret screening of a life-saving show that fans will only have ever seen in the theatre. This is followed by the annual Alarm Mastermind with Modnuss Modnusson (hardcore nurds need only apply) this quiz isn’t easy and under the full glare of the light and all the fellow Gatherers watching it can be daunting even for the most hardcore Alarm fanboys and girls.  This is then followed by a Keynote Address from Mike Peters that I’m aware was to announce the details of next year’s plans with no annual Gathering in Llandudno in January or at least not as we’ve come to know it but a string of summer shows to celebrate 40 years of Alarm music.
Then at 6 pm the lucky 300 are let in early where details of record store day release is unveiled as well as questions from the floor and a chance for a young girl to request ‘One Guitar’ which Peters duly plays and Compare Gareth Jones (Gaz Top) invites the young lady up to play the tambourine and make her weekend.  The stuff dreams are made of for all of us music fans never mind a young child. There was also a new track premiered as always so much to take in.  Peters and The Alarm show no signs of winding down or easing up with the next 18 months being mapped out already.
The doors then swing open for the evening’s extravaganza where Dave Sharp plays his solo set before The latest set up of the Alarm take the stage for another extraordinary evening of Rock and Roll from Peters past. Sure it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t get ’68 Guns’ or the blistering ‘Deeside’ and as newer songs rub shoulders with the “old” classics.  ‘Cenotaph’ and ‘Neutral’ sound great alongside ‘Superchannel’ and ‘My Town’.  Sure there have been unbelievable Gatherings like when Coloursound rocked up and almost took the roof off the venue way back in time or the more recent epic four-hour set.  The line ups have changed and I’m sure we’ve all had our favourites but tonight Peters is as passionate as ever leaving nothing behind in the changing room and playing as passionately as the first gathering or the twenty-first the man is indeed an inspiration.  Smiley is like a machine in the engine room hammering away on his kit the most Moon the loon like drummer out there and great to watch.  He looks like he’s having the best time of his life every time he sits behind his kit. The longest member other than Peters is James Stevenson who has left his own unique stamp on some of the classic tunes as well but I can’t help but feel I’d love to hear him just play the guitar – there’s something about the traditional lineup and I can’t help it but I do miss Adams thump on that bass. I know times change and accept that this is where The Alarm is now and accept it – I’m sure it’ll evolve again someday it all makes for a rich tapestry and I’m not one of the fans who crave the original line up.  Sure I’d love to see a set for old times sake but we’ve moved on and that’s also cool.  We almost certainly wouldn’t have had 45 RPM from that lineup nor songs like ‘Two Rivers’ so swings and roundabouts and its what makes attending this weekend such a buzz.
I’ve always looked forward to heading North every year and wondering what might unfold.  The Gatherings in Pontins were different but Venue Cymru is the spiritual home and it feels right.  I will no doubt miss it come next January but the recent announcement of St Davids Hall, Rhyl and Prestatyn something to look forward to as we go back to the real intimate shows which will no doubt be brilliant.  The Gathering has been unique events with some real hard work to mix it up by team MPO some have worked amazingly well other maybe not.  I used to enjoy the impromptu late-night Clash sets in the Hydro with people like MTV Alex Coletti turning up or when Steve Diggle was steaming and giving it to the tories (God Blass Him)  From the Venue Cymru.  My favourite was Coloursound and as far as line ups go When Craig Adams (The Mission), Mark Taylor (Lords Of The New Church), Smiley and James Stevenson they were an unstoppable force who were a match for any live band on any stage.
Hopefully, this wasn’t the last Gathering in this format it can’t be.  I tip my hat to Jules and everyone who puts this together because there isn’t anything quite like it and I simply don’t want it to end, what will I do every January? Love Hope & Strength to you all and keep on keeping yourselves alive. Life-affirming and another immense weekend of performances.
Author: Dom Daley

One of the albums of the year gets a re-press on Blood Red vinyl for those who missed out on the initial press.  RPM  reviewed it Here and we urge you not to sit on your hands a second time as this will sell out as the first run did.  Go Go Go!
Alvin says, “For all you vinyl junkies that missed out on obtaining my solo album ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ on 12 inch vinyl earlier this year due the initial 300 being sold out in short order, Time & Matter Records have manufactured a new batch of 300, this time on blood-red vinyl and minus the accompanying CD and download code. This release will, therefore, be sold at the lesser price of £17 (the first pressing was priced at £22) and can be ordered from this Here”

It features twelve songs written by yours truly and an array of very talented guest musicians that reads like this: Brian James – The Damned / Lords Of The New Church; Leigh Heggarty – Ruts DC; Mick Rossi – Slaughter & The Dogs; James Stevenson – Generation X / Chelsea / The Cult / The Alarm; Barry ‘Barrington’ Francis – The Saints; Timo Kaltio – Johnny Thunders band/Hanoi Rocks / Cheap ‘N’ Nasty; Mel Wesson – Keyboard player & Ambient music designer – TV Smith’s Explorers/The Verve ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ / U.K. Subs ‘Diminished Responsibility’ LP / Films Mission Impossible 2, Batman Begins, Hannibal etc; Steve Crittall – The Godfathers; Jamie Oliver – U.K. Subs.

“I would advise interested parties to get their orders in sharp to avoid what occurred last time, which was a lot of people missing out due to the speed that the original batch sold at. In fact it was due to so many people voicing their disappointment at not being able to get a vinyl copy in time that persuaded T & M Records to go with this colour-altered second run. For those of you that are not so disposed to a bit of vinyl, there is also a CD version of the album available from the same link. Ta! A x”

Right let’s get the elephant in the room out the way right from the start, shall we? Holy Holy are most definitely NOT a tribute band. The band declare this on the website, and tonight having waited a few years to finally see them live in the right type of venue (as in all standing, not seated) I do have to wonder why anyone would think otherwise.  After all, this band features Woody Woodmansey the drummer from The Spiders From Mars along with world-renowned producer Tony Visconti and they celebrate the music of David Bowie, the music they worked with him on. This is not a bunch of failed rockers from Cleethorpes all donning wigs at the weekend pretending to be some band they most certainly never will be.

Do I need to go on? No? Good…..

First up tonight for those through the doors early choosing not to stay in the pub to watch Newport County’s soon to be ended FA Cup crusade we are treated to a short and sweet acoustic set from ex-I Am Kloot frontman John Bramwell. Welcoming a fast-growing crowd with acoustic tracks is never an easy task for any artist, but here tonight John does this with suitable aplomb and its credit to the strength of his onstage character and songs that he actually gets the room to remain pretty much in silence – albeit for some understandable chatter from the bar area. Not knowing any of the songs prior to tonight the single most striking thing I find about his performance is that it feels perfectly within the context of tonight’s headliners, with his songs being coloured with the merest hint of early Bowie. So, what did I make of it all? Well almost straight after the show a good friend of mine was quick to ask me via social media what I thought of John Bramwell, and all I could think of in reply was “impressive”, simply because he was just that.

With that tribute band matter already dealt with I will openly admit I had struggled with the whole concept of how Holy Holy might capture the true magic of Bowie live, and for me the whole reason why this particular concept works so well is because in Glenn Gregory Visconti and Woodmansey have found their perfect frontman, someone who whilst obviously being a fan, doesn’t try to be David Bowie.  Playing the albums ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ in full and in sequence it is Gregory who people ultimately look to as master of ceremonies and here beaming from ear to ear he ALMOST does the impossible making you forget that ultimately these are David Bowie songs not his own.

Of the rest of the seven-piece outfit guitarists Paul Cudderford and James Stevenson have their Les Pauls well and truly set to Ronson, whilst cowboy-hatted keyboardist Berenice Scott cuts a towering almost Corey Parks like figure up on her riser. Back out front, we have multi-instrumentalist Jessica Lee Morgan (the daughter of Tony Visconti) adding in all the subtleties and nuances whilst also making her father smile proudly during her version of ‘Lady Stardust’, the only song for which Gregory takes a breather. Plus of course there’s Woody Woodmansey, still very much a powerhouse of a drummer at 68 years young, and the mercurial figure of Visconti, who at 74 cuts the image of bassist half his age.

As already stated, setlist wise the almost two and a quarter hours the band spend on stage together tonight starts with the epic progressive hard rock of ‘The Width Of A Circle’ and ends with the New York influenced art rock of ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ and its simply fantastic to hear these songs afforded the proper love and affection they so rightly deserve, and with the two albums played out in full and in sequence, this is so much more than a nostalgia trip .

‘Supermen’, ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Starman’ are just some of my favourite songs aired tonight and it feels like everyone around me has their own favourites too, it’s just such a shame they don’t have time to play all of ‘Hunky Dory’ too.

Thankfully some songs from my all-time favourite David Bowie LP (‘Changes’ and ‘Life On Mars?’) do show up during the encore, but not before we are treated to the Visconti produced curveball of ‘Where Are We Know?’ from Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’, a song I think I’m right in saying you would otherwise never have heard performed live.

Ending with ‘Rebel Rebel’ and a few words from tonight’s sponsors (Woodmansey and Visconti) it’s impossible not the feel the genuine warmth the band have not only for the songs they have just played but also the fact that they are playing to a “proper” standing audience.

This ladies and gentlemen most certainly is rock ‘n’ roll.

Author: Johnny Hayward

 

 

Another year another venture North for my annual trip for the Gathering as we head for Gathering Twenty Seven and this year’s festivities seem to coincide with the cold snap as the UK is besieged by snow as we struggle to trek North under the half an inch of snow that seems to have landed on high ground but we struggle on regardless as we maintain a=our fine record of attending every single one outside Rhyl town hall So that’ll be Twenty Five without fail.  We’ve seen some amazing performances over the years culminating in last years mammoth Saturday Night and a set that had an hour-long encore! beat that Springsteen.

We enter the arena for Friday nights performances and as if by magic Dave Sharp is taking the stage for his solo performance. Now I’ll admit that Dave is a little like marmite and there are those who love him and his folky noodlings and those that aren’t fussed and as much as I love the guy and ‘Hard Travellin’ was and still is a fantastic piece of work and one of the best albums the Alarm or associated members ever made since then his work has left me cold and his performances of which I’ve seen many have been tepid.  Its a tough gig even for Dave doing the Gathering as a lot of people just want to hear old Alarm songs and drink and as many people catch up on the Friday its not until Dave is Joined by Mike Peters that things get really interesting.  There is a respect and a love that is evident considering what these brothers from different mothers went through but there is also a tension in the air and they seem to accept both and it helps create some magic when the guitars are turned up and the mics are switched on.

Tonight sees the pair begin with a fine rendition of ‘Bells Of Rhymney’ quickly followed by a fantastic ‘Gasoline Alley’ some great stories are told about their pre-recordings and the songs they used to play together when they started this journey and ending on ‘Get By With A Little Help From My Friends’ seemed to cement that respect for each other and what they have achieved.

We get a great ‘Shout At The Devil’ followed by ‘For Freedom’ and ‘Marching On’ and for me such a magical time in music comes flooding back with such classics getting played by James Stevenson, Smiley and Peters even if James seems to be having some technical difficulties the flow of the set isn’t broken and playing in the round is working a treat . As the Bass synth starts for ‘Howling wind’ my mind takes me back to some of those early shows and the feeling I had as a young man and that steady bass vibrated through the floor as sharpie played the riff on ‘Howling Wind’ I’m caught with my thoughts where have all those years gone its well over half my life ago and I’m brought back to more recent times after ’68 Guns’ because James and Smiley leave the stage for peters to wander down a wormhole of early solo songs as the excellent and underplayed ‘Poetic Justice’ gets a rare outing the same can be said for ‘It Just Don’t get any Better Than This’ and latter ‘Feel Free’ as far as Fridays go this one is shaping up rather nicely thanks.

James and Smiley return to the round for a blast through ‘Drunk And Disorderly’ and ‘We Are The Light’ and its a delight to hear ‘Superchannel’  and ‘Rocking In The Free World’ for the first time in a long time.  With the clock ticking and beauty sleep needed for a long Saturday it only left Mr Sharp to return to the stage for a memorable slog through ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’. Friday was in the bag, done and dusted and as far as Fridays go that was easily the best for many a year possibly since Coloursound made their debut. Bring on Saturday.

Forty years into his career as the number one 4-string plank spanker on the UK punk rock scene you can perhaps forgive Alvin Gibbs the “self indulgence” (his words, not mine) of a solo record. I mean he’s worked with some of the biggest names on the scene during that time, plus he’s also penned some absolutely amazing songs along the way too… and the musician’s modesty aside, I for one was straight out the blocks to order my copy when the pre-order for ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ went live on the T&M Records website just after Xmas. So, why all the rush of anticipation I hear you ask?

Well, the best place to start is with the guest list of musicians that Alvin has assembled to help him make this record. It reads like a veritable who’s who drawn from his expansive career and boasts the likes of Brian James, Mick Rossi, Timo Kaltio and James Stevenson amongst the names eager to offer up their services as Disobedient Servants. It was only the name of Iggy Pop that for me was the real glaring omission, but then when I first got to hear ‘Ghost Train’ the lead single from the album, I had to double-take. Could my jug-likes be deceiving me? That is surely Iggy crooning his way through this belting ‘Instinct’ like rocker, but no…it’s actually Alvin Gibbs, and what a great voice he has too. ‘Clumsy Fingers’ the flipside of that mega limited and long since sold out 7” also proved to be a fun time piece of Iggy influenced garage punk, and these two tracks alone were enough to convince me that this was certainly no vanity project and Alvin Gibbs was possibly about to do a Keef and release a solo album fans of his day job band would be clambering to hear too.

With Alvin having also released one of the best books about being in a rock ‘n’ roll band, the awesome ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ (recently re-released as ‘Some Weird Sin’) written about his time spent playing bass for Iggy Pop. It kinda feels eu natural for ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ to kick off with ‘Arterial Pressure’ a (just shy of 2 minutes long) barnstormer of a track written about how Alvin got to know Joey Ramone through Mr Osterberg.

Next up is the aforementioned ‘Ghost Train’ which here perfectly segues into the equally Iggy -like strut of ‘Dumb’, and right here we have as near a perfect opening 1-2-3 to any album I’ve heard in many a long year. Seriously folks if these tracks were on a new Iggy record the mainstream music media would be spunking their chinos over them.

‘Camden Gigolo’ takes things down an anthemic gear or two before ‘Clumsy Fingers’ speeds off in a frenzy of glam tinged punk rock guitar complete with few week’s road dirt under those nails.

Not unlike Glen Matlock’s excellent ‘Good To Go’ album from the tail end of 2018, where ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ really excels is when it throws you a curveball and in side one closer ‘Heaven And The Angels’ Alvin delivers a menacing slice of southern fried psycho-drama that challenges the listener with each new listen twisting and turning itself into your very soul.

Flipping the record over and side two kicks off with perhaps the most UK Subs like track on ‘Your Disobedient Servant’, the riotous ‘Back To Mayhem’ a track that simply fizzes with raw energy, that’s before the more subtle slide driven ‘Polemic’ takes you on a fascinating trip through what influenced Alvin to get into the music business in the first place.

It’s here that for me the LP flips from the overarching influences of Iggy and garage punk to that of one drawn from the likes of Mott and Bowie with ‘No!’ hinting at latter day Hunter and ‘Desperate Dave Is Dead’ doffing its baker boy cap to one of the young dudes passed all to soon. ‘I’m Not Crying Now’ too has more than just a little bit of cracked acting going on within its grooves, whilst album closer ‘Deep As Our Skin’ hints at just how great Cheap And Nasty might have been if Alvin had been given more a role in front of the microphone.

Having been lucky enough to get a good few preview listens of ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ the immediate thing that leapt out at me was just how much this sounds like a band, not a solo record. So kudos indeed to the real heartbeat of The Disobedient Servants; guitarist Steve Crittall, drummer Jamie Oliver and of course Alvin himself for making this one hell of a riotous rock ‘n’ roll record….and one I just can’t wait to get my finished vinyl copy of.

As I mentioned in the intro to this review ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ is available to pre-order right now via T&M Records on LP/CD and via Bandcamp for the download (the links are below). If you are after the LP/CD combo you best make sure you snap one up sharpish as when those red and white splatter babies are gone they really will be gone. So, trust me when I say, ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ is one record you really do not want to be without.

 

Buy It Here

Bandcamp

Author:Johnny Hayward

As I enter The Fleece on a grim Thursday night the support band have just taken the stage and local band Cauda Pavonis might not be everyone’s cup of tea with their steampunk full goth schtick which was as unavoidable as the backing tapes and recorded synths but some people in attendance were getting into it as the set wore on.  Frontwoman Su was a likable and engaging singer but the music was not really to my taste although I do remember a couple of titles in ‘Aces And Eights’ and ‘Love Like Broken Glass’ and I do remember them singing  about nurseries and other goth things but I wasn’t really here for that I did get distracted by the fleeces video screens either side of the venue displaying the countless tribute bands currently boggin’ up (or maybe propping up ) venues like this and I remember feeling quite sad about it as the Goths played on and maybe I should take more of an interest in them because at least they weren’t peddling someone else’s music and all power to them for what they do as it must be a serious niche scene. 

Anyway onto the headliners Gene Loves Jezebel who are covering six UK cities on their first jaunt in a decade featuring Pete Rizzo, James Stevenson, and Jay Aston. You know when you get a feeling that this is going to be good well as soon as Stevenson hit the strings to unleash ‘Twenty Killer Hurts’ it wasn’t all best of material and you could never accuse Gene Loves Jezebel of hopping on the nostalgia circuit because it certainly didn’t feel like that nor did the band perform like they were just going through the motions. 

‘Cow’ was dedicated to Vegans in the audience and to be fair when Jay asked how many were in attendance you could have heard a pin drop (Bristol keeping it old school). ‘Sweet Sweet Rain’ was dedicated to Jay’s motherland just across the border and ‘Kiss Of Life’s’ ‘Why Can’t I’ was majestic.

The last studio album featuring these three had ‘Someone You Love’ and ‘Flying’ represented and they transitioned seamlessly into the middle of the set. there were plenty of crowd pleasers yet to play and the clock was ticking I did start to think if we’d manage to cram in so many songs I wanted to hear.  It was a dip into the archives for ‘Bruises’ of the first album which had me thinking how long ago that was and to be fair to Jay he’s certainly got the peter pan thing happening as he’s managed to stay  rock n roll pencil thin and like his heroes he dances and jokes with the audience and is on good form tonight sharing stories about the songs as they come thick and fast. ‘Gorgeous’, ‘Jealous’, ‘Break The Chains’ were all aired before Jay introduced the first song off the first album and one that had the powers that be had read or listened to the lyrics would unquestionably have banned it ‘Upstairs’ sounded fresh and vibrant like it could have been recently written never mind recorded in nineteen eighty-three! Rizzo thumped his bass like a good un and the band sounded so locked in and tight and to bring the main set to a dignified ending ‘Desire’ was aired.

With the clock showing almost half eleven it was good to be out on a school night at a late one and it was great to hear ‘Always A Flame’ from the ‘Immigrant’ album before the inevitable curtain closer of ‘Motion Of Love’ and then it was done Gene Loves Jezebel were off into the cold night air after delivering a most excellent set of old and new and doing it with a smile and like a band that gave a shit about what they were playing and how they delivered it.  Let’s hope it’s not another decade before we get to do this all again Gene Loves Jezebel I salute you that was most excellent. If you read this Jay you sent a couple of us back over the bridge with big smiles hoping next time there is a date closer to the green green grass of home – Diolch yn Fawr yawn I chi

Buy Gene Loves Jezebel Here

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