The Alarm : The Gathering - Pontin's, Prestatyn Sands, North Wales - 28/29/30th January 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Thursday, 10 February 2011 05:00

gatheringHave I really been travelling to North Wales for almost twenty years to join like-minded people from all across the globe to hear Mike Peters run through some old and new songs? My god, how time flies when you're enjoying yourself, eh?


Making my second weekender at Pontin's since early December I knew this was going to be a little different to Hard Rock Hell as, for a start, there would be no stagg chilli in my chalet nor would I have the pleasure of spending an evening in the company of Danny Nordahl (mores the pity, eh?). This was to be the second year running that the venue was to play host to the annual Gathering and, all things considered, Pontin's is functional in catering for one's needs at such an event. The North Wales coast isn't the best place to be come the winter months but at least the venue for the rock 'n' roll show was a mere two minute walk away and this year it had more of a festival line-up with Big Country and Glen Matlock being put on the main stage as warm ups to all things Alarm (as well as a host of other bands and singers also added to this year's line-up).


After arriving and applying my hair glue and Über Röck t-shirt I wandered over to be greeted by a five-deep queue at the bar so managed to miss Rusty Egan's set at the decks of death before Peters took to the stage just before 9pm to play a set in the round (well square if I'm being picky and pedantic) where fans were treated to the familiar Friday night acoustic set. It seemed to go by as something of a blur having seen Peters doing the solo acoustic set literally dozens and dozens of times over the years. It was a welcome change to see a drum kit and some amps there with him as Stevenson, Adams, Taylor and Smiley take the stage to run through some classic Alarm songs as sort of an acoustic set up - there was even time for someone in the crowd to propose marriage and get a positive response before the ever popular 'Walk Forever By My Side' was aired. After a decent hour-and-a-bit long set it was time for a short interlude before it was off to the main stage as Peters took to the stage with another band who did very well for themselves in the 80's, Big Country. Not being anything other than a passing fan of the band, I do remember them having the larger than life former Skids axeman fronting the band and, seeing Big Country fronted by anyone other than Stuart Adamson, even if it is Mike Peters paying respect to their back catalogue, wasn't what this scribe was after. Like I said, I was never  the biggest Big Country fan, sure they had the distinct guitar sound and a clutch of big singles but unlike many here tonight I found my attention wandered and this Friday night seemed a little anti-climatic and curiosity got the better of me as I wandered the site in search of refreshments and a break from the infamous Pontin's heating. Sadly Big Country wasn't for me even if I was in the minority as the set seemed to be going down well.


Onto Saturday night and, after deciding to duck out of the customary 'Alarm Mastermind' quiz and the bazillion fans all wanting to play one of Peters' Alarm guitars and jam along to 'Rocking In The Free World' or the Battle Of The Bands performance, I decided to abscond from site and venture to pastures far (Manchester for the nosey parkers still reading). After returning to my bunker, sorry chalet, it was time for some refreshments before the bar became once again swamped and back into the main hall for Bruce & Jamie Watson who played some acoustic songs, with the highlight being a decent rendition of 'Saints Are Coming' by The Skids.  Following that was Pistols original Glen Matlock And The Philistines backed by Hunter & Ronson on vocals (obviously not Ian & Mick but their daughters). Playing a fair dose of material from last year's excellent album 'Still Running', The Philistines have a beefy sound of well crafted punk rock songs in the vain of The Heartbreakers highlighted by the rather good 'T.R.O.U.B.L.E' and album title track. Due to the time restraints and some technical problems there was to be no 'Princes In Towers' from the Rich Kids or any of his original punk rock classics penned whilst in his former Pistols employment but it was a decent set none the less and, again, well received by the masses. 

The Alarm took to the stage at roughly 9pm and raised the roof from the opening bars of 'Blaze Of Glory' through til midnight and the final strains of 'Pretty Vacant' with Glen Matlock and 'Rocking In The Free World'. This was a set full of energy and passion and, above all, awesome songs. The audience were treated to songs from the entire back catalogue in the 30 song set. For the old school there was 'Absolute Reality', 'For Freedom', a rockin' 'Deeside', 'Majority', 'Shout To The Devil' and 'Unsafe Building'. For those who weren't fans of The Alarm but got into Mike Peters as a solo artist and the laterday incarnations of The Alarm there were some of the more punky tracks like 'Superchannel' or 'Without A Fight' and 'My Hometown' which sounded like rock 'n' roll bombs being dropped on the audience. Things were ramped up a notch or two later in the set as the band seemed to really click and motor their way through classics like 'Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke' and '68 Guns' before returning to the stage for a run through of the Coloursound song 'Fade In Fade Out Fade Away' but sadly there was to be no Billy Duffy to riff his way through the solo which was a shame but James Stevenson dutifully riffed it up in his absence. 

The Alarm these days is a very different beast to the one that played Top Of The Pops with '68 Guns' or were forever compared to U2 or the wrapping on the chocolate bar of The Clash. With Craig Adams on bass, James Stevenson on guitar and Mark Taylor on keyboards they are something of a geeks' supergroup featuring ex-members of The Mission, The Cult, Lords Of The New Church, Chelsea, Gene Loves Jezebel. Often found sitting in on the drum stool is Steve Grantley from Stiff Little fingers but, alas, this weekend that stool was more than adequately filled by Smiley (who used to attend The Gathering as a fan). They sounded like a band who were having the best of times and as relevant as any today treading the boards and as the monster set drew to a close I looked forward to the up and coming UK trek as they embark on a full and all encompassing UK tour (except for the South Wales date - what's up with that?), 18 dates zig-zagging across the UK and on this kind of form people won't fail to be impressed. Peters sounds in good form as does the band.

As far as raw live rock 'n' roll is concerned this was a superb set full of energy and life and rocked the house. Had this been played at Hard Rock Hell or Download it would have stolen the show and, speaking as someone who has seen over a hundred sets from Mike Peters and the Alarm, this was up there with the best. Song choice and energy on the Saturday night's set was sheer class and one that will be remembered as a classic Gathering. There was little respite or long interludes between the songs - it was bish, bash, bosh from a band that was absolutely smoking. Mike, Smiley, Craig, Steve and Mark take a bow, you certainly deserve it. The Alarm 2011 most certainly were rocking in the free world!