It’s been a long time coming and it’s good to be back. The lyrics from The Alarm’s ‘Change 2’ seem a more than an appropriate way to describe the post Covid return of the band to Warwickshire midway through their current tour. For the fans it’s a double treat as Dave Sharp is along for the ride opening the show.
There’s an incredible depth and timelessness to Dave’s own songs; you don’t have to watch the news for long before you come across a character similar to that depicted in ‘Last Smilin’ Villain From The South’ and the observational social commentary of ‘Downtown America’ is probably even more relevant now than it was when written over 25 years ago. His passionate and honest delivery is captivating and for those on the journey with him it’s very rewarding. However, not everybody gets the vibe and the magical atmosphere present at his smaller gigs is somewhat diminished in the larger confines of The Assembly. Dave even passes comment that some of the crowd require resuscitation. Having said that though he does receive a great reception, which is always guaranteed, when he throws in ‘One Step Closer To Home’ and also a lesser played Alarm song ‘Tell Me’. The inclusion of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Dusty Old Dust’ is inspired and closes his set with some decent audience participation. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Dave returns to the area so we can catch a full set.
Mike Peters has always excelled as an innovator in ways to market himself and progress with his art on his own terms and free of any shackles of the management and labels of the old school music business. It’s not surprising that as lockdown took hold around the world that he seemed to effortlessly take it in his stride. His Big Night In videocasts soon became a regular staple and world events certainly gave him enough material to meet the 50 day challenge he set himself to write, record and release an album. One might have expected such a project to have been little more than a curio, but the resultant WAR turned out to be an album of outstanding quality that not only documented the shared reality of the moment we were living through but offered up hope and positivity.
As much as online broadcasts filled the void, there’s nothing quite like live show and the anticipation as the lights go down. The backing tape rolls as the band take the stage and proceed to open with a lively, highly charged ‘Protect And Survive’ from the aforementioned WAR album. With its insistent riff and chorus it’s classic anthemic Alarm that wins the fans over immediately. There are four mics set up at the front of the stage and Peters is constantly on the move darting between them, something he’ll keep up for the duration of the 2 hour set. He certainly won’t have a problem getting his 10,000 steps in. ‘Absolute Reality’ and ’45 RPM’ follow and keep the pace. The cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Safe From Harm’ was a highlight from WAR, so it’s good to see it in the set and nestles in amongst ‘Rain In The Summertime’ and ‘Superchannel’ with some belting guitar courtesy of James Stevenson.
Following a lively rendition of ‘Two Rivers’ the rest of the band leave the stage while Mike sings a couple of acoustic songs; ‘How The Mighty Fall’ and Willie Nile’s ‘One Guitar’. What then follows is a fast paced run through of about selection of some of the best loved alarm tracks covering the entirety of their career book-ended by ‘The Poppy Fields’. The songs have all had some shaved off and it’s an interesting way to include a great many songs without shortening them to the point of it being a medley. Given that the tour is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Alarm it also proves to be a good way to capture a large cross section of songs across their career. ‘The obvious classics such as ’68 Guns’, ‘Spirit Of 76’ and ‘Rescue Me’ mix effortlessly with more recent favourites such as ‘Close’ and ‘Beautiful’, and lesser played gems like ‘Third Light’ also make an appearance. The ‘Poppy Fields’ reprise also ends the main set.
The drum kit and keyboards that have been sat at the front of the stage reveal their purpose for the encore as Smiley and Jules move to the front for the encore beginning with a stripped backed ‘Breathe’ and an emotive ‘Psalm’ which is dedicated to the people in Ukraine during which the crowd are encouraged to hold aloft their phones with the torch on. It then back to business as usual for a hard rocking ‘Warriors’ to bring to a close a fantastic two hours celebrating not only the 40th Anniversary of The Alarm, but of a return to live music itself.
Protect And Survive
Rain In The Summertime
Safe From Harm
How The Mighty Fall
In The Poppy Fields
Shout To The Devil
Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke
Walk Forever By My Side
Sixty Eight Guns
Spirit Of ’76
Blaze Of Glory
In The Poppy Fields ( Reprise )