Welsh legends The Alarm played a raw heartfelt set the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver on Tuesday.
For Vancouver music lovers who have a that have a sense of nostalgia for 80’s British music the last few weeks have been a wild ride. Kicking things off earlier in the month we had a visit from Gary Numan, and this week has seen two more bands in town. On Monday Simple Minds played the Orpheum, and on Tuesday we were treated to Mike Peters and The Alarm at the Rickshaw Theatre. Whilst all these bands have done a phenomenal job maintaining and building a following over the years, The Alarm has been the band that I have been most looking forward to seeing.
I love the band when they were just getting started in the early 80’s and had not seen them since 1986 when they supported Queen at Wembley Stadium, a show in which they totally killed it. Although the line-up tonight was very different from that in ’86, with Mike Peters being the remaining member from those heady days, there is still a sense of family about the band, and it nice to know that original members are still on good terms.
Whilst my recollection of that earlier gig, and others at much smaller venues in the UK are a little hazy, the reason that drew me to the band in the first place was the honesty of the songs, and the rawness of the performance. I am happy to say that none of this has been lost, and in fact I think it may have only been enhanced over the years. Mike, and wife Jules have had the own personal battles over the years, and through these they have often said that the music and fans have been a tremendous support, and it was clear tonight they really mean it.
The Rickshaw Theatre was the perfect venue for the show, providing an intimate atmosphere allowing band an audience to really play off each other. We were all especially grateful that the band made the effort to come North of the border, especially as they had to backtrack for another gig in Oregon the following night.
Opening with Rain in the Summertime, Mike Peters started as he meant to go on, non-stop energy, moving constantly between his three-mic set up. In fact, I think the only time he stopped for any length of time in the song was for the now customary act of spraying the audience with water.
Next up was Beautiful, the first song of the night from the band’s latest album Equals, released earlier in the year. The album has earned critical acclaim and has been popular with fans as well. We were treated more than half a dozen tracks from the album over the course of the show, with each track followed by a classic Alarm song. For other bands this may have been an issue, but the songs fit in well, and their popularity with the crowd really is an indication of the strength of the album.
Introducing Strength Mike took the opportunity to give a shout out to his charity, the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which is active in getting bone marrow donors on national and international lists, as well as providing hospital equipment for supporting those with cancer in developing countries. Mike, Jules and others had just returned from a hike through the Canyonlands of SW America to raise funds for LHSF.
After heavy audience participation for favourites Absolute reality and The Stand, Mike took time out before playing Spirit of 76, to give a little history of the band, and how bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash had such an influence on their direction. This included a misguided attempt at getting guidance Johnny Rotten (or Mr. Rotten, as Mike called him – which just earned him a glorious “Fuck Off” 😊)
Off the back of these stories we were also treated to a bit of Anarchy in the UK, and White Riot, which was as entertaining as short blast of Frankie Goes to Hollywood earlier in the show.
The main set rounded out with the wonderful Thirteen Dead Reindeer, and of course Blaze of Glory.
The band did not waste too much time in coming back out for an encore, with songs from Equals (Transatlantic, and Two Rivers) bookending abridged version of Declaration, Marching On, Where Were You Hiding, and 68 Guns.
Sometimes it is a mistake to get your hopes up when you are looking forward to seeing a band that you have not seen in a while. Thankfully this was not the case tonight. The musicianship was never going to be in question, and the honesty, rawness and the connection with the crowd that the band have always had still shone through. I will not be waiting another 30+ years before I see them again.
You can catch up on the dates for the rest of the tour, and other news about The Alarm at http://thealarm.com/
More information about the Love Hope Strength Foundation, and how you can contribute can be found here
Photos: Stewart Johnstone