The leader of a long-defunct pop group mounts a tour using the old group’s name but none of the other original members.
No, it’s not the Supremes; this time it’s ’80s Welsh rock band the Alarm.
Singer Mike Peters hit the Alarm’s “off” button during a 1991 show in London by announcing, “This is my last moment with the Alarm,” then walking off stage, seemingly for good.
Nine years later, however, Peters is about to embark on a 14-city U.S. tour, which opens tonight at the Key Club in West Hollywood, without former cohorts Dave Sharp (guitar), Nigel Twist (drums) or Eddie Macdonald (bass).
“There’s this new nine-CD box set out, and through our Web site, fans said they wanted to see us playing live again,” Peters explains. “So I decided to hit the road. I tried to put the original band members together for the tour, but they’ve all got other jobs or commitments now. They told me to carry on, regardless.”
Sharp, however, sees it a bit differently; he heard about the new tour secondhand.
“I was shocked when Nigel told me about it,” he said in a separate interview. “If the Alarm songs are not performed by the original band members together, then everything we fought for as a band, including our integrity, is severely compromised since the band’s strength had its roots in our friendship.”
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As for Twist (real name Nigel Buckle), what began with a smile quickly soured.
“Mike did call and ask if I wanted to contribute to the [boxed set] project and, at the beginning, I was happy that the Alarm’s material had been compiled in such a thorough and professional manner,” says Twist, who now works in San Francisco as an investigator for the public defender’s office.
“But I couldn’t start a tour on such short notice, and people who know the Alarm will be royally duped when they show up and find three strangers onstage.
“It wasn’t Mike’s band,” Twist adds. “All four members of the Alarm brought a unique chemistry to the music that’s something others can’t duplicate. An Alarm tour should be a reunion and a glorious tribute to a lot of hard work.”
Peters points out he is touring as the Alarm 2000, “so that right there says this is something different.” Advertisements for the two Southland shows (tonight’s a Friday stop at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana) have listed the show simply as the Alarm.
“The whole point,” Peters adds, “is to pay tribute to the Alarm, and from the stage each night I dedicate the show to Nigel, Dave and Eddie. In fact, the door is open to all of them. If Dave wants to phone me up tomorrow and say, ‘I’m gonna join the tour,’ we’ve got a spare amp and a guitar.”
The group Peters has assembled for the tour consists of lead guitarist James Stevenson (Generation X, Gene Loves Jezebel), drummer Steve Grantley (Stiff Little Fingers) and bassist Richard Llewellyn (Jess, Cartoon).
The Alarm’s status as a critically dismissed group adored by fans for its anthems of optimism and spiritual yearning gives it a timely parallel to yet another high-profile band: Creed.
Still, is there a place for the Alarm 2000 in a pop kingdom ruled by Eminem, Limp Bizkit and various boy bands?
“I haven’t really got a master plan, other than to pay my respects to where I’ve come from as an artist,” offers Peters. “I hope people don’t see us as some kind of nostalgic museum piece. There’s this whole rock lineage–from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to even someone like Korn–that continues to evolve. I think we’re an ongoing part of that.”
And what about charges that he’s minimizing the roles played by Sharp, Macdonald and Twist by replacing them with hired guns?
“You wonder what people would think if the Beatles went on the road without John Lennon, or if Paul McCartney toured without the other three,” said Peters. “But from my point of view, the challenge is to make the Alarm 2000 fly without the other three. I don’t know yet, but I think I can.”
* The Alarm 2000 plays tonight at the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. $17.50. (310) 786-1712. Also Friday at the Galaxy Theatre, 3130 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. 8 p.m. $16.50 and $18.50. (714) 957-0600.