The Gathering ; Mike Peters & The Alarm - Prestatyn, Pontins - 29th & 30th January 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 16:46

GATHERING_Event_PosterWhere do I begin? I guess I'd better go back to the start and introduce you to one of the best...no, scrap that - not one of, but simply 'The Best' band ever to hail from this beautiful country that I dwell in or, more to the point, the lead singer from the band - stand up Mr Mike Peters. Singer, songwriter, survivor and 100% rock 'n' roller who has stayed true to his roots and done things his own way in a murky business.


Going back almost two decades, Mike Peters decided to try a new format and, instead of going out on tour, he would stay at home (in North Wales) and the fans would go on tour to him. From its humble beginnings in Rhyl for the first few, he moved operations to Llandudno where he took over the sleepy seaside town for a weekend every January and a few thousand fans would travel from as far afield as Japan, Australia, North and South America and all over Europe to see him perform over two nights. This year it was time for a change and after the success of the last fifteen Peters had outgrown the Conference Centre in Llandudno and decided it was time for a Hard Rock Hell-style Pontins assault.

 

It is testament to the hard work that one band, or rather one singer, can pull off such an audacious attempt on such an impressive scale. I excitedly embarked on the comparatively short 200 mile trip north with pass in hand through snow showers and sleet to see how a weekend of The Alarm could compare in the wild surroundings of a Pontins holiday camp and my recent Hard Rock Hell experience.


On arrival I was shown to my chalet (in a spooky twist of fate, it was fitting that I should set upalarm2 camp in the chalet above what was Über Röck HQ for Hard Rock Hell 3 - was it a sign? Why was the grass dead outside the chalet? Dan, what were you drinking?). It was Friday evening and the bar was calling me so off I headed to see what a Friday night at The Gathering had to offer. As I entered the main arena it was a familiar set up and at 8pm Mike Peters took to the stage (set up in the middle of the hall for his now usual Friday night acoustic set). I settled down without a minute to spare as Mike seemed to take to the stage as I entered the room (which was nice). The proceedings kicked off with 'Coming Home' which seemed an obvious choice considering where we were and all that. We then had a run through both old and new Alarm songs, from early classics to songs from his recent canon of work which worked as well as expected and no matter how many times I've heard him sing songs like 'One Step Closer To Home' or '68 Guns', they still sound damn good.


After what seemed like the blink of an eye, Mike left the stage and the first part of the night was done and dusted. Me, I headed for the bar after catching up with a few other Gathering 'Vets'. The focus turned towards the main stage as Mike and the most recent line up of the band crack on with playing his second album, 'Feel Free', in its entirety, with stories about how the album was written whilst he was fighting the most personal and frankly terrifying battle with cancer. It made sense to hear how a song came about and here was a man stood on stage with just an alarm9electric guitar not looking for people to feel sorry for him or using an illness to further a career plan but telling it like it was for him at such a dark time. Many of us might have succumb to the illness but not Mike Peters who fought the disease with everything he had and managed to write a bold and honest record with some of his best work to date.

 

The band slammed into venomous versions of 'RIP', 'Regeneration' and 'Feel Free' playing the songs like they were written yesterday and not at the peak of such personal and turbulent times. For the encore, Peters returned to the stage in Elvis-style Vegas jumpsuit to crank out a rip snorting version of 'Gone Elvis'. It was time for more songs from his solo career before finally calling it a day for the first of two long nights for any performer....but we're not talking about any performer, we're talking about a man once described by Billy Duffy as 'The hardest working bloke in music'. Talking of Billy Duffy..... he once said he was so glad The Alarm existed because in the 80's they took a lot of negative press away from his band The Cult and if the press were slagging off The Alarm then it meant they were giving The Cult a week off. Since then Billy Duffy has recorded an album with Mike, recorded at Bob Rock's studio, contributed and played on his solo records and also performed at previous Gatherings. 2010 saw a sold out Pontins rock to the sound of old and new songs with fans both young and old.


After a few hours shut eye there was plenty to amuse and intrigue fans as Mike had a guitar workshop with James Stevenson during the day and anyone and everyone could get their sweaty mitts on his guitar collection and fretwank his six stringed 12 strings or his beautifulalarm8 Gibo's and Takamines (tech talk there for the axe men still reading), then there was the traditional Alarm quiz as those who should have restraining orders recollect facts from his past that even he'd forgotten as they tried their best to out-Alarm-nerd the next geek (in the best possible way of course) - oh and no I didn't enter! This took proceedings up until 4pm before the main arena was readied for the main event.


I'll cut to the chase here as the big screens counted down for the 3 minute warning before James Stevenson (Chelsea, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult and Kim Wilde's guitarist), Craig Adams (The Mission, Sisters Of Mercy and also The Cult on bass duties), Steve Grantly (Stiff Little Fingers) on drums and Mark Taylor (Lords Of The New Church, Elton John on keyboards) all hit the stage as they ripped through two and a half hours of top drawer rock with many songs from the original line up stood shoulder to shoulder alongside the frankly harder edged more recent material. It seemed seamless as we had 'Where Were You Hiding', '68 Guns', alongside 'Superchannel', 'Drunk And Disorderly', the cheeky '45 rpm' and 'Love Hope And Strength' power through the PA before proceedings are brought to an all too premature close. The energy coming from the stage is staggering as the band played with such childrenoftherevpassion and verve that put most bands half their age to shame, in yet another blistering performance. Superlatives can often be overused when writing about something you're passionate about but honestly when music is this good and performances reach such highs, it's difficult not to ramble on. Without wanting to sound sycophantic or smart-arsed The Alarm 2010 still have the chops and sound as relevant and vibrant in today's musical landscape.

 

This, however, wasn't the end. The night was still young; it was only just gone midnight for God's sake and it was back to the ballroom for the rare as hen's teeth performance from Children Of The Revolution as for the next fifty minutes the crowd were treated to Alain Insain's troupe of glam hags as they blasted out a near perfect set of stack-healed, spangly-shirted glamtastic tracks from all your favorite 70's bands. T'was Vince St. Claire's flying V that rocked the house through 'All The Young Dudes', 'Blockbuster', 'Motorbikin', 'Ballroom Blitz' and 'Get Down And Get With It', a couple of T Rex classics were laid bare for the Bowietastic finale before the crowd was finallyrufus1 slayed by the Quo's 'Sweet Caroline' and off trumped the glam titans and that was the Gathering 2010.


Rufus Stone (who bore a striking resemblance to Craig Adams) was in his oils knocking back the vino in heels that surely contravened all H&S regs. For a band this damn good to sell out Pontins for a weekend without any advertising shows that rock 'n' roll is alive and in rude health, in fact scratch the surface and there lies a beating heart that's as big as the great Orme in Llandudno and will survive all the trends and fads of fickle music. Like him, love him or even loathe him, Mike Peter deserves your respect. Remaining true to the cause of rock 'n' roll and will continue, undaunted and full of enthusiasm long into the 21st century because, quite simply, like you and I the rock and roll still burns in Michael Leslie Peters as he fights the evil forces of musical mediocrity. For that I salute him \m/


The Alarm tour the UK through April 2010 so go check the press and take in a date on the tour - I promise you will not be disappointed. If you can honestly come away from one of the dates on the tour and say you weren't impressed I'll refund the money myself and check your pulse because you're probably already dead, innit! Failing that get hold of 'Guerrilla Tactics' and the new album '21' -  they positively crackle and sound fresh as a .....um, poppy!


www.alarm.com


www.lovehopeandstrength.org