Mike Peters/ The Alarm : live review

Mike Peters
Stranglers Convention
Camden Centre
Nov 20th 2011

Is Mike Peters the nicest man in rock?

Sat there backstage he oozes a calmness and a pleasant demeanour that is out of place in the music world but then I guess with everything he has been through in the last few years with his successful battle against cancer everything is in proportion.

In some ways it’s this battle that defines tonight’s set, he talks openly about the disease and his fundraising gigs on mountain tops and sponsored walks that he organizes, he even does one song that he wrote whilst in the middle of treatment. It’s this sense of life and death and the eternal struggle that makes his already heartfelt music even more from the soul.

Armed with just an acoustic guitar this is some performance. Mike has a great voice, one of those heart on the sleeve, rough round the edges voices that has hints of Dylan, Joe Strummer and John Lennon to it, there are even moments when it soars like Bono but mainly he sounds like the great Ian Hunter- a pure rock n roll voice with all the heartache and passion that demands. His acoustic is exemplary and the songs are pure rock n roll, rock n roll when it’s all about emotion and life, death and the scary bits in-between.

With passion like this he holds the room with his intensity and good natured between song banter. Rock n roll is a serious business and we are all enthralled by it’s flame but Mike Peters puts this into perspective. When you have seen so many fakers of the years it’s entrancing to watch someone who is still hypnotized by it’s passion.

He tells us about one of the great rock n roll scams when the Alarm released ’45RPM’ and the radio refused to play it and the press overlooked the single because the band were ‘too old’. They then promoted the single under the different name of the Poppyfields- a pretend young band and it became a media buzz, same song, same people same reviewers, different perceptions. The single was a hit and the media sulked when it found out that it’s shallow concerns had been rumbled.

He sings old Alarm classics like ’68 Guns’ which still Brunswick with it’s youthful naivety, capturing brilliant rush of youth when punk rock seeped into the small towns and the rebel rock of the Clash was replicated by wild eyed youth who really fucking believed it, he even details this punk rock youth in another song, the new way of making rock n roll with it’s impassioned firebrand spirit combined with a DIY ethic that really sparked a cultural revolution in out of the way towns like Mike’s Rhyl, the seaside town on the North Wales coast where the good days had long gone and pop music was by passing. Punk started a mini revolution in these towns and Mike’s band, the Alarm, grew out of their previous bands like the school kid punk of the Toilets and then the mod pop of Seventeen, the band that the Stones Roses would hitch hike to go and see play in their scooter boy days.

Growing their hair and adding cowboy boots they became the Alarm, acoustic guitar strumming Strummers who took America in the wake of UK only to return home and, like Mike explains to us, find that the whole of the UK had been hypnotised by the very same scooter boys that used to follow him around with the Stone Roses being the main band and the Alarm suddenly being washed up on the shores of rock n roll.

Mike Peters persevered and became a big cult artist whose gigs are always sweat and spittle celebrations of the power of rock n roll. Tonight’s performance is a potent reminder of this. A long way from the weak world of fashion this is a genuine, heartfelt soulful performance that defines the true spirit of rock n roll.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Knowing Mike and having worked with him i can safely say there’s not an ounce of retention in him. he lives and breathes rock and roll…. no dramas no primadonnas all genuine

  2. having seen mike over the years , i can honestly say he is the hardest working man in rock…always bringing something new to the table ,taking his fans to different places ,a man of great humility dignity and a man realising he is here for the wonders of medicine…a bit deep and emotional you may say but this is what he evokes in his followers ,come to his show you will see and hear what i mean…

  3. JohnRobb — You get it. Thank you for an insightful and honest review. Mike Peters and his music have been part of my life for nearly 30 years. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t listen to The Alarm, be it in the car whilst driving or in the soundtrack that plays in my head. Mike never takes himself too seriously, but he is quite serious about making music and lifting people’s spirits with it. His music is passionate and energetic. As you said, it comes from his soul. There are so few out there like Mike Peters today. We’re lucky to (still) have him.


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