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.