Friday 27/01/23

It’s been a long time coming but it’s good to be back. Some fella used to sing that every night from a stage, somewhere back in time…oh yeah, Mike Peters of The Alarm.

It’s been a tough six months for Mr Peters and his family, after playing the final night of a rigorous and full UK tour back in mid ’22 he became seriously ill and has had the toughest battle with his health in a long line of tough battles, but Mike Peters being Mike Peters he soldiers on with the most incredible PMA you could imagine. Tonight (Friday acoustic in the round) began with a serious personal (Maybe a little too personal) video shown on the big screens of a bedside, fly on the wall, half an hour of the most uncomfortable footage of one of your heroes you could imagine. The most awful cough, tears, lung drains you name it. Not what I was expecting to be played on the big screen before a live show. It was tough for everyone present I’d imagine, watching the very private and personal fight to save Peters’s life. I’m not sure I was ready for the 21st-century – film everything – gets it online tiktokin’ or instagrammin’ – maybe I’m stuck in the old school and not down enough to appreciate this is how it is these days, who knows? it was what it was. The upshot is Mike looks fighting fit and the picture of health as he strides to the stage to an emotional performance that many thought would never take place, but here we were, gathered around the camoed out round stage to witness the return of one of rock musics most battle scared warriors, Don’t say team MPO aren’t inclusive and go the extra mile to let you in to their inner circle because that was it. Sharp intake of breath give your loved one a knowing squeeze and lets go!

I do know it came close to the wire if this weekend would be possible what with Covid putting the kibosh on the last few years and last year’s return to Rhyl acoustic Gathering. playing live is where Mikey boy is most comfortable and the place that makes him feel so alive it was emotional and massively appreciated as the audience sang ‘Walk Forever By My Side’ and a emotional Peters gathers his composure for the next few hours of Gathering 30.

It was a joy and a pleasure to see him in his natural environment looking healthy and raring to go for the next two hours or so as he blitzed through an incredible set of deep cuts from an unbelievably rich back catalogue.

Decked out in his now familiar fighting green Peters gets straight down to business as he whips out sizable chunks of songs from his repertoire playing songs like his life depends on it (it quite possibly does) as he veers from ‘Breed Apart’ and ‘Neutral’ from his more recent past through deep cuts such as the fantastic ‘Heroine’ thru the snotty (even acoustically) ‘Under Control’.

By the time he reached the majestic ‘Rise’ he seemed comfortable with proceedings and whilst there were scuffed chords and rearranged lyrics Peters was winning and the audience was on its best behaviour as you could have heard a surgical needle drop it was so respectfully quiet whilst the songs were being chased out of the speakers like a superhero gaining strength from the music pouring out of the man’s guitar and voice.

Possibly my fondest memories of previous Gatherings came around the time of ‘Rise’ and ‘Feel Free’ of aftershow parties in the Hydro Hotel at 2 AM where we got Clash songs from the ragged house band Peters could assemble but memories come flooding back as ‘Feel Free’ cracks to life leading to a run through ‘All Is Forgiven’ incredible, emotional and as fresh as the first time I heard these songs. It was then thoughts entered my head of that Brixton night as ‘Raw’ followed by ‘Sold Me Down The River’ its been some journey. I’ve been to every Gathering from Rhyl Town Hall to Pontins and its spiritual home o here in Llandudno and whilst I might not intake all they offer on Saturday and Sunday I wouldn’t miss it for the world and some people ask me how can you enjoy one man playing one guitar year after year after year but I would say that its one of the most enjoyable two nights I look forward to year after year and during the pandemic years it was miserable knowing that for a weekend in January, I wouldn’t be freezing my backside off walking down the seafront going to another night of Gathering entertainment if you’ve ever been you’ll know how good a weekend it is and what effort Peters puts into ever show he does under some challenging circumstances, to say the least.

Anyway, back on track, we marched on through some old-school Alarm classics, climaxing with the quite brilliant ‘Howling Wind’ followed by ‘We Are The Light’. As we entered the final furlong the old Alarm cover of ‘Bound For Glory’ was knocked out as Peters explained that during the staycations people would throw cover song challenges at him from the obvious ones to more obscure and quite frankly bizarre choices which lightened the mood and gave many present a raised eyebrow as a minimum. if all I Need Is The Air I Breathe wasn’t left of field enough how about George Michaels ‘Faith’ complete with a wiggle? no, you would have guessed that one well how about a flawless take on ‘Time Warp’! No, I didn’t think I’d hear an encore of covers like that, but hell, people were loving it, and it was another Gathering first. The night was drawn to a close as Peters’s two teenage sons were brought on stage to accompany him on an emotional run through ‘Wonderwall’ and a rousing finale of ‘One Guitar’ before everyone filed out of the venue with the thoughts running through their heads that everything was going to be alright, ok for the Saturday night main course of some more Rock and Roll but with drums and louder guitars – Bring It On!

Saturday 28/01/23

Tonight’s electric performance kicked off with a brand new track ‘Forwards’ more easing in than punching you square on the nose. To most established bands starting your set with a brand new track is terrifying and a big no-no but to Mike Peters its what he does and the fans who’ve been on the journey with him over the last few decades pretty much demand new material anywhere in the set because the history of Saturday nights at the Gathering have been some marathon performances and this one seems rather poignant considering the man’s health issues people (me included) are just glad to see him back on stage in any capacity and for any length.

It is the same stage set up as previous Gatherings pre-pandemic and the tour last year with his wife on keys tucked up on stage right next to Smileys drum kit with James Stevenson on Stage left whilst Peters patrols the main stage between four mics.

His voice sounds strong and the band sound locked in. as recent tunes ‘Fail’ skank in before the hard rock of the epic ‘Superchannel’ fills the either. With such a vast catalogue it’s always a tough call what he plays and what he leaves out. Sure there are staple Alarm songs he would find hard to leave out that pepper the set as it ebbs and flows from recent to vintage. there isn’t much time for talking and the band lets the music yap yap yap its way to another brand new song as ‘Are You Ready?’ hits the spot with its punchy mod rhythm as Peters puts his vocal cords to the test and they sound fine from my spot which must have been a relief not knowing if the punishment they would take over two nights after such a lay off would hold up. They did and some.

After a few more old and new with ‘Warriors’ being the pick of the newer songs blasted out with energy and verve Peters vanished from the main stage to take up his familiar position at the back of the venue to run through acoustic versions of ‘Its Alright’, the poignant ‘Without A Fight’ before ‘Breathe’ lit up the room. Peters then weaved his way through the audience to join the band back on the main stage for a rocked-up version of ‘Walk Forever By My Side’. The band then proceeded to run down memory lane with a superb bunch of picks from the earlier days of the band ‘Declaration’ heavy period of the set with ‘Shout At The Devil’, ‘The Deceiver’ and ‘Third Light’ pouring memories over me as my mind sped through sets from a time I’d almost forgotten where the band had the energy of a small army dropping sound bombs on the New Ocean Club to the Orange Box and every old school concert venue between. Good times then and good times now.

Proceedings were halted during ‘Majority’ as someone needed medical attention minutes later the show was resumed and momentum was regained swiftly. We were now twenty songs plus into the set and it was showing no signs of stopping Peters looked fitter and stronger than I’d seen him for quite some time. The man is a machine and considering what he’s been through to want to get right back into the eye of the hurricane seems like madness but like many, I’m delighted he wants to go on – after all, what else is he supposed to do?

Back to the beginning and ‘Unsafe Building’ kicks off the final furlong and its heads down and go! ‘Knifedge’, ’68 Guns’, ‘Spirit Of 76′, Rescue Me’ all get a good seeing and it’s a swift encore before returning to beat out another five songs before the curtain finally gets dropped on what has been an emotional Gathering 30. With all the trials and tribulations that the Peters have been through over the last few decades let alone the last few years is nothing short of breathtaking and the fact they perform for almost five hours spread over two days and do it with a bazillion selfies, and questions with beaming smiles are heartwarming. When people tell you not to meet your heroes I roll my eyes and tell me bollocks. Mike Peters is a legend and once again turned in a memorable Gathering with a little help from his friends and some. An announcement about next year’s festivities is on hold but you can guarantee if I’m fit and healthy and if he’s fit and healthy then we’ll be doing this all again same time same place. Bring it on!


Love Hope And Strength

Author: Dom Daley