Mike Peters has never been afraid to mix things up and try something different with the older songs of The Alarm, and his current tour is a perfect example. Tonight’s show at the Artrix is one of a number of gigs on a lengthy tour that sees him visit some lesser played venues across the UK, and he does this as a solo show revisiting what is probably The Alarm’s commercial peak covering three albums; Eye Of The Hurricane, Change and the live Electric Folklore.
The first set sees Mike revisit the Eye Of The Hurricane album. My expectation was for him to run through the songs and maybe talk about some of them in between. Instead, it’s a pre set format with narration in between the songs. While this is interesting, it is not particularly as revealing as it could have been as some links are vague and difficult to ascertain whether certain parts of the spoken moments are personal or just narrative to the theme. It may well be intended this was so as not to define songs that are part of individuals history and still open to their own interpretation. Musically it’s not just a run through of the album. Instead, the original tracks are re-organised and complemented by b-sides, and also some unrecorded songs from the same era. The re-workings are also surprising; ‘Rescue Me’ is a considerably slower, more sedate affair while elsewhere other songs are more lively. Newly aired songs like ‘The Ballad Of Randolph Turpin’ which tells the story of the short lived Middleweight champion, and ‘Irish Sea’ are interesting additions. If you want to hear them, you’ll have to but the Stream (Hurricane Of Change) CD that accompanies the tour. The re-imagined ‘Hallowed Ground’ is simply superb. What is also noticeable is how attentive and respectful the audience is. Unlike many acoustic tours by bands, there’s no chatter to spoil the moment which makes it all the more intimate.
After a brief interlude, the second set focuses on the Change album. A continuation of themes from Hurricane, it was more bleak lyrically but it is apparent that much of the content is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago with political uncertainty, economic pressure and the effect upon the working man. The album contains several personal favourites which are a joy to hear live; ‘Black Sun’ is magnificent and the rawness of this version of ‘Devolution Working Man Blues’ is another highlight. Of course, aside from the subject matter these songs often conveyed hope, so it’s appropriate that the second set concludes with a new song in ‘A New Day’.
After the second set concludes, Mike returns to the stage to run through some of the standards from Electric Folklore such as ‘Strength’ and ‘Blaze Of Glory’ before opening up to requests from the crowd. He takes several requests and then works them into the encore; a stunning ‘The Day The Ravens Left The Tower’, ‘Howling Wind’ and Big Country’s ‘In A Big Country’ are all honoured before closing on a rousing ’68 Guns’.
With 45 odd songs and almost two and a half hours of entertainment, and then finding the time to talk to anybody that wanted a chat after the show until everybody had left the building, Mike Peters has given fans in Bromsgrove a superb evening and exceptional value for money.
The Alarm have announced a handful of dates in March, including a date at Birmingham’s O2 Institute.