Review: Review:Alarmstock, An Acoustic Weekend With Mike Peters

N.E.W.I., Wrexham
23/24 August, 2003

A Road Less Travelled�

It’s unusual, and in my experience unique, for an artist to expose
himself and his songs to weekend-long scrutiny by an audience. But this
is precisely what happened here in Wrexham last weekend. Mike Peters
(The Alarm) performed 132 of his own compositions during no less than
eight separate acoustic sessions. Between each performance there were
Alarm video shows, and special guest appearances by Californian
singer/songwriter Brian Travers, and Scottish singer/songwriter JJ
Gilmour from The Silencers. Peters’ final, dynamic performance on
Sunday night was in the company of Bruce Watson from Big Country. Alarm
fans from around the world attended the sell-out, twelve-hour marathon
– some show, some artist!

Saturday 23 August. The Start Of The Beginning�

I sensed a tangible buzz in the N.E.W.I. campus foyer where a live
performance stage had been set up. The bar was packed with fans from
the USA, Europe, Scandinavia, UK, and I even noticed two Japanese
ladies who looked a little dazed and confused. The Alarm shop at the
end of the foyer was filled with casual clothing, CDs, Videos and DVDs,
and business was brisk.

It became pretty clear to me that any knowledge gaps I had about Mike
Peters and The Alarm were about to be filled. On scanning the day’s
menu I found a variety of vintage 1980’s live performance footage
including landmark shows in London, Hamburg, Munich, Nurburgring and
Roskilde. The videos and some of the live performances took place in a
lecture theatre adjacent to the foyer, with Peters introducing each
show and adding footnotes where necessary. For me, the videos were an
eye-opener. I was never an avid Alarm fan because during this period I
was engrossed in career progression 10,000 miles away in Australia, but
the taped performances in front of enthusiastic, sell-out audiences
were inspiring and exciting. I could understand why Peters had
collected and protected these memories of past glories.

On the day, Peters gave four heartfelt and skilful performances
covering varying periods of his song writing life with The Alarm. Each
set had been formulated with mathematical precision and accompanied by
sheet music that he seldom appeared to use, accept for song title
reference. They were passionate performances by a musician with few
peers in today’s disposable, manufactured pop culture. Students at
BBC’s Fame Academy were performing live on TV to ‘stay in’ that night.
Their time would have been better spent watching how it should be done.
They should have been in Wrexham at ALARMSTOCK.

Later in the day, I caught a wonderful performance by special guest JJ
Gilmour. Performing some melodic and moving songs from his SUNNYSIDE
album, he caught the imagination of the audience, and I was so
impressed I bought the album!

Sunday 24 August. Pouring Petrol On Fire�

The day opened with a video of the notorious Alarm Brixton Academy
performance in 1991 when Mike Peters announced to his fellow musicians,
the audience, and the world at large that he was leaving the band. The
announcement came towards the end of a show that Peters claimed was the
band’s best. After another live session, Peters introduced a video of
his return to the Brixton Academy in 1994, as a solo artist supporting
the Sawdoctors. His brief introduction and the video were the most
moving moments of the weekend; the painful decision to leave the band
was etched in his face as he explained his reasons for leaving, and the
manner of his shock announcement.

A young Californian singer/songwriter called Brian Travis followed and
provided thirty minutes of pleasant folk-pop before Peters returned for
his sixth live acoustic session.

Then the best Peters session of the weekend, entitled Pouring Petrol On
Fire, when he performed many new Poppy Fields songs. It was during this
session at the foyer stage that some of my personal favourites from the
Poppy Fields series were played, including The Normal Rules Do Not
Apply and the incredible anthem for our times, The Unexplained. Peters
explained to the audience that the Poppy Fields series of five albums
would shortly be distilled into one new album for general release later
in 2003, and that the views of fans would be considered in selecting
the songs.

The final acoustic set of the day proved to be the most explosive when
Bruce Watson from Scotland’s Big Country joined Peters. With acoustic
guitars blazing and Peters giving his all in belting out Alarm and Big
Country songs, the crowd visibly enjoyed a major highlight of this
twelve-hour extravaganza.

When it was all over, everybody went home with memories of the great
event. Wrong! All the sets were recorded and transferred to CD before
being copied feverishly in a backroom. Another major innovation of this
incredible event meant that punters could also go home with CD
recordings of their favourite live sets from the ALARMSTOCK weekend.

I was not a Mike Peters or Alarm fan, but after this weekend of
incredible music and performances, I was sold. Peters proved to be a
prolific and superb songwriter with a distinctive voice, and great
guitar skills. The event proved to be a major success and there’s talk
of another one in the not-too-distant future. If you like your music
served acoustically, with heavy doses of drama, inspiration and
passion, then don’t miss out on the next ALARMSTOCK – whether you’re a
fan or not�


Set 1: The Start Of The Beginning And The Point Of No Return
The Crescent, Edward Henry Street, Where Are We Going, Up Downtown,
Mercenary Skank, In You I See The World, It’s Going Be A Good Year,
House Of Commons, Flesh And Blood, Life Can Be Beautiful Sometimes, On
St David’s day, Lucky Numbers, Bank Holiday Weekend, Nothing Lasts
Forever, Hear Me Out, It’s Not Unusual.

Set 2: From New Destruction Comes New Creation
Ground Zero, Feel Free, What Happened To The Love We Made, In Circles,
You Are To Me, Transcendental, First Light, My Calling, Rip, White
Noise, Broken Silence, The Wasting Land, Regeneration, Burnout
Syndrome, High On The Hill, Rise.

Set 3: Walking With The Demons And The Devils
Unsafe Building, How The Mighty Fall, Love Don’t Come Easy, The Drunk
And The Disorderly, Devolution Working Man Blues, Right Back Where I
Started From, In The Beauty Of My Surroundings, Hardland, Change II, A
New South Wales, No Frontiers, Permanence In Change, Father To Son,
Walk Forever By My Side, Spirit Of ’76, The Rock And Roll.

Set 4: The New Wave Songs Are Rising
Marching On, Where Were You Hiding?, Absolute Reality, Breathe,
Deeside, Third Light, The Stand, Strength, Knife Edge, Close, We Are
The Light, 21st Century, One Step Closer To Home, Coming Home, Sixty
Eight Guns, Rescue Me, Everyday, Blaze Of Glory.

Set 5: The Dirt And The Glory
Moments In Time, Poetic Justice, The Wind Blows Away My Words,
Spiritual, Save All Your Crying ‘Til Later, Swansong, Raw, Lead me
Through The Darkness, Levi’s And Bibles, Train A Comin’, The Road, Down
The Road, All Is Forgiven, The Message, Back Into The System, A New

Set 6: A Road Less Travelled
Change 1, Safe Houses, Reason 41, Rose Beyond The Wall, Lie Of The
Land, For Freedom, Time To believe, Elders And Folklore, Unbreak The
promise, You’re Only Young And Innocent Once, Second Generation,
Thoughts Of A Young Man, Pavilion Steps, What Kind Of Hell, Bells Of
Rhymnney, Shine On, Gone Elvis.

Set 7: Pouring Petrol On Fire
Under The Sun, The Innocent party, The Candle That Burns The Brightest
Is The First To Go Out, The Life You Seek Does Not Exist, New Home New
Life, Alone Together, Raindown, True Life, The Normal Rules Do Not
Apply, Alive, Everafter, The Unexplained, In The Poppy Fields, When
Everything Was Perfect, Fade In Fade Out Fade Away.

Set 8: Rock And Roll International. The Alarm Versus Big Country
Driving To Damascus, Rain In The Summertime, Never Take Your Place,
Sold me Down The River, Long Way Home, How Long And How Much Longer,
Peace In Our Time, The Stand, Fragile Thing, 68 Guns (Long Version), In
A Big Country, Spirit of ’76 (Long Version), Chance, Blaze Of Glory,
Rockin’ In The Freeworld.

MPO Team
Alarm Information Service
PO Box 709, Prestatyn, Denbighshire, LL19 9YR, Wales, UK
Tel 011 44 (0)1745 571571
Fax 011 44 (0)1745 571577