It’s been a long time coming but it’s good to be back. Now, where have I heard that line before? Many moons ago the good people at The Alarm HQ had a plan to celebrate 40 years of The Alarm and Mike Peters by having a couple of shows on consecutive nights in Rhyl Town Hall the birthplace of The Gathering (a yearly weekend of all things Mike Peters & the Alarm for the past twenty-Five years) sadly due to Covid and the past few years of uncertainty the celebrations were put on hold with the Rhyl shows and one at St David’s Hall Cardiff getting shelved until further notice.
Initially, these three shows which sold out in a matter of minutes were put off due to the Global Pandemic. They were rearranged but again the Cardiff celebration was put off into the distant future of 2023 but thankfully the Rhyl weekender was upon us. The Gathering has seen several venue changes over the years and after the first two were in Rhyl it grew to something altogether bigger and was decamped further up the A55 to the seaside resort of Llandudno and the spacious Venue Cymru. After a few years of being in the prisoner of war camp that is the hell hole known as Pontins Prestatyn it made a welcome return to Llandudno before returning to its spiritual roots of Rhyl Town Hall and the compact surroundings of this forgotten seaside town and Peters hometown, a stone throw from where he was brought up. We took our seats as the doors opened and the stage set on the floor of the hall rather than the traditional raised stage it was deemed more intimate for the lucky few hundred who were gathered for what promised to be a mammoth run through forty years of music from Peters. No drums, Bass, electric guitar or piano just one man a few mics and a lifetime of music. Friday night and it’s the present running backwards to 2010 and Peters looks like a man who means business and it was headlong into the music with ‘Two Rivers’ from his latest studio album ‘Sigma’. There was to be a further twenty one songs dispatched from Peters before a welcome interval and an end to the first act it was a hectic flurry of songs from the excellent ‘Heroine’ to ‘Direct Action’ via ‘Coming Backwards’ and ‘Peace Now’ there wasn’t time for any introductions or stories just on with the show with a really impressive run through some deep cuts from his most recent decade.
It was Steven Tyler who once said “Let The music do the talking” and Mike Peters was certainly on top of his memo to play as many tunes as humanly possible. I’ve seen Mike Peters play live well over a hundred times and it’s often the deep cuts that excite me the most. Sure I love ’68 Guns’ and ‘Strength’ and ‘Spirit Of 76’ and ‘New South Wales’ but I love hearing my favourite artists create new music as well and keep pushing themselves especially when I’m on board the journey and tonight is proving to be some journey.
For me the 2000’s was a prolific time for Peters when he wrote some of his finest work be it The Poppyfield collective or the 2008 Counter Attack collective. The band he was working with were pushing him to be the best writer he possibly could be and it was paying dividends and us the fans were reaping the rewards. ‘Superchannel’ whilst being such a force electrically is still a powerhouse acoustically as tonight’s audience buys into the set. ‘My Town’, ‘Edward Henry Street’ and ‘Mercenery Skank’ are given some serious attention and the floor is a shaking.
With the twenty two song second half reaching a climax with the excellent single ‘Close’ followed by the controversial ruse of ’45 RPM’ it was the end of the first night and a really excellent night’s entertainment. To hold an audience for three and a half hours on a Friday night is some achievement but tonight Mike Peters did it with consummate ease and it seemed everyone was now well up for the Saturday night and a delve further into the catalogue.
I must admit I tend to opt out of the Saturdays daytime extravaganza but if you want to immerse yourself in all things Mike Peters they opened up the Hall for a film ’50 Days In Lockdown’ and Peters had time to pose for photos and sign records before a Q&A with the man took place. The team at the MPO do give fans access that many other bands wouldn’t dream of and after all is said and done, if you’ve travelled from afar or just down the road then it’s a pretty impressive experience.
Saturday night was upon us and the fresh breeze outside was forgotten come eight PM as Peters took to the stage for 1999 to 1992 and it was the same format as the previous night where there was no interaction between songs just on with the business of the music and ‘Flesh And Blood’s ‘House Of Commons’ brought memories of being in the studio at BBC in Cardiff whilst that particular album was being made and memories certainly did come flooding back. It was now the turn of ‘Rise’ ‘Feel Free’ and the time when Peters emerged from the fall out of the Alarm split and taking the poets on an exciting journey as ‘Back Into The System’, ‘Feel Free”, ‘My Calling’ and ‘Gone Elvis’ were played. As Peters played ‘Train A Comin’ you could have heard a pin drop as the entire audience was silent with respect for the music and the journey we were on it was awe inspiring and a real moment even after all these years of watching this man play many of these songs all over the country and beyond.
As we headed into the home straight and the beautiful nineteen eighties and when many of us began our love for these works and when Mike Peters entered most of our lives and record collections it is probably many of these songs we did a lot of first to and why they are held with such high regard in our lives and soundtrack so much of who and what we’ve become. It was a privilige to be part of such a great weekend. ‘Moments In Time’ from ‘Raw’ began a whirlwind blast through the original line ups repetoir as ‘Rocking In The Free World’ took my mind back to Brixton and the tanned fringed coat there was even an out of time run through ‘Merry Xmas War Is Over’ which brought a broad grin across Peters face ‘Rivers To Cross’ was a welcome old friend as was ‘Day The Raven Left The Tower’ and the first time I heard ‘Majority’ from the Marquee club came racing back to me, so many venues, so many memories. Inside the young man I once was – was smiling that I still have the opportunity to hear these songs live and have had the pleasure of doing so on so many occasions. The fact that tonight’s performance was four hours long sounds epic because it was epic. It flew by, I honestly thought that I’d have to go into training to get through it but as the songs were unfolding I didn’t want it to end and could do it all over again on any given weekend.
The encores went right back, predominantly featuring the ‘Declaration’ period songs with ’68 Guns’, ‘Where Were You Hiding’ sung with as much verve and energy as the day they were written it seemed. Then the second encore hit us with ‘The Stand’ and ‘Marching On’ hit with the realisation that we were reaching the end of an incredible evening of music. It only left ‘Up For Murder’ before finally bowing out with a raucous ‘The Stand’. Peters took the ovation he richly deserved and a couple of hundred people filed out into the cold North Wales night with yet more memories of a Gathering that was a while in the waiting but oh so well worth it when it arrived. Bring on 2023 and back to Llandudno for another Gathering and that much overdue performance in St David Hall Cardiff. Going out in a blaze of glory our hands were held up high! Brilliant life affirming rock and roll, I love it!
Author: Dom Daley