The first weekend of Hurricane of Change UK Tour 2019 has seen three incredibly special shows in Aberdare, Fleet [SOLD OUT] and Colchester. Each night has featured a standing ovation from audiences moved by the power and the performance of this most unique Mike Peters show.
Utilising a vast array of one man band instrumentation including electro – acoustic guitars, drums, strings, emotive vocals and thought provoking narrative, Mike Peters delivers a uniquely personal concert experience unlike anything that has gone before.
Audience members have been left spellbound by the presentation of the three act show, that connects on so many levels.
Each concert unfolds ‘Downstream’ with all the drama of a play set to music, and continues ‘Upstream’ with songs and lyrics that are so powerfully relevant to the ongoing political zeitgeist being played out here in the UK (and other parts of the world), that it’s hard to believe they weren’t composed specifically, for these charged and changing times.
The Hurricane of Change is now a “must see” show for all Alarm fans, and with the Limited Edition Collection Stream [Hurricane of Change] and CD Edition [Available exclusively at the shows], beginning to make its way into peoples lives, it’s already creating a compelling listening experience, that is allowing fans to see deep into their own life story, as well as that of Mike Peters and The Alarm.
Please read this fascinating article about Stream [Hurricane of Change], written by long time Alarm fan and podcast creator Steve Fulton, along with a selection of comments recently posted on The Alarm twitter account from some of the people who have already attended and experienced The Hurricane of Change.
“The Struggle that Brings Us Together” by Steve Fulton
What did The Alarm as a band, an institution, a symbol, and a creative force, symbolize in the late 1980’s between 1987-1989? In an age when new wave and post-punk morphed into the milquetoast likes of Power Station, and with hair metal rising to prominence on MTV, what place did The Alarm, carve out for themselves in the ever-changing landscape of rock and roll?
On “Stream”, over the course of 74 tracks: a mix of full songs, lines of poetry, lyrics, and acoustic pieces Mike Peters explores this question and, surprisingly, provides an answer.
I say “surprisingly” because Mike Peters, for all of his openness about his life, willingness to embrace fans, and sheer volume of output, remains somewhat unwilling to absolutely nail down the meaning of his own songs. He’d rather let the songs speak for themselves, to be interpreted in the hearts of his fans.
As a long-time Alarm fan this has been both admirable and frustrating. For instance, a song like “Close” from 2004’s “In The Poppy Fields” sounds like a song written with a pinch of bitterness about The Alarm “never getting the big break they so desired by the music industry.” However, Mike Peters might say (and I’m paraphrasing here from a conversation we had 16 years ago) “yeah, or it could be a song about how being ‘close’ is better than actually getting there”.
The operative words there being “could be”.
He’d never say either way.
As a teenager and young adult, these “undefined songs” were fine with me. I could use the “space” in the lyrics and apply them to my own life.
For instance, to me, a song like “The Wind Blows Away My Words” from “Raw” could be about whatever I needed it to be. It could be about my Dad not listening to me, a letter a girlfriend never responded to, or even about that professor in college who didn’t agree with me about the conclusions of my paper. I’d put the song on a mix-tape, sing it out loud in the car, and it would sooth whatever I was trying to soothe at that moment.
However, growing into middle-age, this “space” has become worrisome. Are the mysteries in the songs that I’ve sung aloud and in my head for most of my mature life not as interesting as they once were? Do I Instead, want “answers”? Do I need “definitions?” In the time I have left on this earth, I feel driven to find the true meaning of what I consume. I feel as if there is little time to continually chase a can kicked down the road, trying to read the label, but never quite getting it.
This need to find real “answers” is but one reason why Mike Peters’s new premium collection named “Stream” is so compelling. For once, maybe the first time, we get some real insight into more than just the recording process and instruments leveraged 30 year years ago in a studio. Mike Peters has released “updated” song collections in the past: “Second Generation” (1995), “Acoustic Works 1981-1991” (1997), “Sound And Fury” (2011) , “Declaration 2014” “Strength 2015”, and while those collections might have hinted at what “Stream” might be, none of them ever took the chances or provided the insight that are so evident in this collection.
The main part of “Stream” is 2-CD collection split into two parts : “Downstream” and “Upstream”, which are roughly equivalent to the albums “Eye Of The Hurricane” and “Change”. I say “roughly” because the divergence occurs pretty early on, and never really turns back.
The tracks are arranged, according to Mike Peters, in the order they appear in the narrative. This is the first indication that “Stream” is more than just a way to honour the anniversary of the “Change” album. The collection is bookended by versions of the same song, with “Downstream” leading off with “A New South Wales” and “Upstream” ending with “A New Day”. Both songs are obviously derived from the same source, but the difference is unmistakable.
By taking us through the process of songwriting from 1986-1989, Mike is opening up a window Alarm fans have never seen through before, into the heart of how the band avoided breaking-up, but afterward emerged as a new entity that wasn’t necessarily long for the day. However, if the track order was the only thing interesting here, I wouldn’t even be writing this review, because like I’ve already stated, I’ve got very little time these days, for retreading the same area with no new insight.
“Stream” is narrated by Mike Peters, interspersing the tracks with some short, sparse, and insightful thoughts and lines of lyrics that push the story along. In a way, it’s like Mike is also discovering the true meaning of these songs as he travels through them with us. It’s quite remarkably different than anything he has ever done before.
Each track here is a new recording, most of them full new versions of recognizable songs. These songs are a mix of brand-new interpretations, and updated arrangements with refreshed production. No original track has been left untouched and almost to the note, it works really well. While, most of the time, you can hear the soul of the original track, the new versions highlight specific portions of lyrics and music that you might not have noticed before. The music here is expertly written, played, recorded and produced, as you might expect, but for some reason sounds even more-so in this collection. These are some of the best sounding songs I’ve heard in a very long time, even better than both the Equals and Sigma albums.
For me, the stand-out songs are the ones that have totally new arrangements and music, but where possible, retain most of the melody of the original version. On “Downstream” this comes through best on “Newtown Jericho” , “Hallowed Ground”,”One Step Closer To Home”, “Permanence In Change” (now cast a glam song!) and “Only Love Can Set Me Free”. On “Upstream”, it’s nearly every track, but with “Devolution Working Man Blue” (holy cow is this a good version!), “Prison Without Prison Bars” and “Rivers To Cross” especially blowing the roof off the joint. At the same time, “Sold Me Down The River” stands out as a song that could seriously, be the theme to the next Bond movie. You never saw that one coming, did you?
The acoustic pieces, mostly b-sides, are included here to keep the story moving. In many cases they work, but to be honest, I would have really liked to hear interpretations of “Time To Believe” and “Breaking Point” through this 2019 lens. Still, that’s a lot to ask from a collection that already has so much to offer.
There are several new tracks, aside from the aforementioned “A New Day”, most appearing on, or near the beginning of “Downstream”. The powerful trifecta of “Ghosts Of Rebecca”, “The Ballad Of Randolph Turpin” and “Irish Sea”, will have original Alarm fans scratching their heads, wondering – “If these songs really did get written so early in the process, why they were not on ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’?” They truly sound like the “Electric Folklore” we were promised but felt so elusive in 1987.
On a different collection, you might question why Mike bunched all these new songs together, but as part of “Stream” it makes total sense. They represent a “creative high” that was obviously crushed as “Downstream” continues. For whatever reason, the original band rejected them at the time, or Mike did not feel the confidence to bring them out. Whatever it was, it’s significant. And let us not miss the significance of “64 day hero” sung about in “The Ballad of Randolph Turpin”. Is Mike really singing about Randolph Turpin, or could he be also referring to the UCLA MTV Broadcast in April 12, 1986, or the shows with Queen at Wembley Stadium in July 1986? The band was on top of the world, but not two months later were close to breaking-up? Were The Alarm not our “64-day heroes” too?
These are the types of questions you will ask yourself, especially if you are a long-time Alarm fan, as you listen closely to how this is all put together and rolls out. I don’t want to reveal too much, but “Downstream” ends with a beautiful, haunting version of “Elders And Folklore” where the significance of certain original lyrics bears obvious fruit. Is this the way Mike planned it, or just the way he sees it now? Does it matter? He’s revealing truth, at least his own truth, and really what more could we ask for?
It’s an obvious dark space Mike Peters ends-up in during“Downstream”, but not without hope. In long Alarm tradition, things are about to be broken-down and built back-up again. “Upstream” lifts everything to an inevitable conclusion. While it’s not necessarily the conclusion long-time Alarm fans want, it’s probably the one they need. “Upstream” recasts “Change” into what it really was: not necessarily “change” for “the Alarm”, but Mike Peters’ personal catalyst into his own future.
In short, Mike is telling us why The Alarm were successful and why they broke-up and what the whole of the Alarm community means to him. He’s found the meaning that was in his songs.
The meaning that was so elusive. The meaning I’ve been searching for too, in songs that at one time felt so universal. Now it’s obvious: Mike Peters has been on a journey of discovery this whole time, and with “Upstream” and “Downstream” he pulls us right there along with him.
I think every listener will probably interpret this collection their own way, but pardon me as I foist mine directly onto you. As a die-hard Alarm for 35 years, this is how I have come to understand “Stream”.
I have played through the collection multiple times, binge listening over and over. I made playlists to recreate the original albums and listened that way too. I listened to the commentary, noted the track-listings and the relationships of the songs. For weeks, this was the only music I listened to. I strove to locate answers to the meaning of Mike Peter’s music on “Upstream” and “Downstream”. I forewent the radio, podcasts, and even other Alarm albums. In all that, I kept coming back to these new songs in Mike’s new sequence, and then at once the answer swept over me.
In the song “Ghosts Of Rebecca” from “Downsteam” Mike sings of “The Struggle That Brings Us Together”. The song is actually in 3 parts, and the middle part the music stops and Mike says:
“Was I made of the places that still echo to the distant voices of those who went before me in the struggle that brings us together”
To me, that might be the key to all of “Upstream” and “Downstream”. A lyric that was never recorded at the time it was written in 1986. Why? Probably because Mike was not ready to face what it really meant. The Alarm as band were brought together as struggle to survive, The Alarm’s music attracted fans because many of them felt uplifted from their own struggles by the music the band played. That collective “struggle” can be a powerful bond. However, if that’s all you have, what happens when it’s gone? When the musicians were not working together? When the struggle is between each other instead of against the world?
Furthermore, is it not evident that Mike’s post 1980’s career (through both music and charity), has strived for that same connection. Always inviting fans ever closer into the struggle to survive?
The “struggle” that brings us together?
It’s grand deal you see.
We all struggle.
With the passage of time.
Mike has brought us into his own struggles.
And he has written music as a way to transcend them.
So that we can face our own struggles too.
This is why the songs are left up to interpretation.
This is why he doesn’t want to define them.
Because if they were defined, then the struggle would not be collective.
The struggles would be one-way, and they would push us apart.
And what are the songs “Close” and “The Wind That Blows Away My Word” about if not, in some way, these types of struggles?
The answer has been there all along.
It’s not the meaning or definitions that matter.
It’s the end game.
it’s the collective journey.
To me, now, it makes total sense.
It was always the shared struggle.
It was the “invisible force”, that kept me coming back all these years for inspiration.
It was the “spirit” that kept me going, even when the dark times were at their darkest.
It was the “struggle” that brought us together.
Steve Fulton 2019.
03.10.19 ABERDARE Coliseum
04.10.19 FLEET The Harlington SOLD OUT
05.10.19 COLCHESTER Arts Centre
10.10.19 CARLISLE Brickyard Tickets Tickets
11.10.19 HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome Tickets
12.10.19 SELBY Town Hall SOLD OUT
18.10.19 CRICKHOWELL Clarence Hall Tickets
19.10.19 CRICKHOWELL Clarence Hall SOLD OUT
23.10.19 BROMSGROVE Artrix Tickets
24.10.19 SWINDON Arts Centre Tickets
25.10.19 KINGSKERSWELL Church SOLD OUT
26.10.19 NEWBURY Arlington Arts Tickets
31.10.19 TRING The Court Theatre SOLD OUT
01.11.19 NEWBRIDGE Memo SOLD OUT
02.11.19 PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms Tickets
03.11.19 SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn SOLD OUT
08.11.19 DERBY The Venue SOLD OUT
09.11.19 DARWEN Library Theatre Tickets
14.11.19 BURY The Met Tickets
15.11.19 GATESHEAD The Sage Theatre Tickets
19.11.19 LIVERPOOL Epstein Theatre Tickets
20.11.19 LEEDS Brudenell Tickets
21.11.19 EDINBURGH The Caves Tickets
22.11.19 ABERDEEN The Lemon Tree Tickets
23.11.19 PERTH Joan Knight Studio at Perth Concert Hall SOLD OUT
29.11.19 STOWMARKET John Peel Centre SOLD OUT
30.11.19 RETFORD St. Saviours Church Tickets