By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Venue: The Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Florida–August 14, 2018
It was a gorgeous, sunny evening when The Alarm popped into Clearwater, Florida, to perform at The Capitol Theatre—their first time in Tampa Bay since 1983! It was in 1983 the band supported U2 during their War Tour. The band performed at now defunct Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, which is currently a public park.
Mulling around in the lobby before the show, which offered no support band—just pure headliner—I noticed a lot of 40 and 50-somethings dressed in black and white checkered shoes, “New Wave” clothing, and The Alarm t-shirts. The line at the merch booth was plenty long as concert goers snatched up attire and the band’s latest CD Equals. Always with a political or social cause lilt, it is no surprise the CD and logo have the equal sign with a derivation of the poppy logo, which now appears as if bleeding. Peter’s guitar has the equal sign and the word “equalizer”, suggesting rock and roll is a device that can bridge social gaps and move mountains.
The concert began as Mike Peters walked out on stage, kind of made a goof-up, and said, “Let me go back and try that again.” So, he went back stage and the entire band emerged. It was an authentic and light-hearted moment, that endeared the crowd.
The Alarm, which is composed of Mike Peters (vocals, guitar, harmonica), James Stevenson (bass/guitar), Steve “Smiley” Bernard (drums), and Jules Jones Peters: Keyboards, hit the ground running with their 1984 hit from the album Declaration, “Blaze of Glory.” Many other songs followed from their 80s years, such as “The Stand,” which almost sounds like a rockin’ sea shanty song (yes, before Flogging Molly). The crowd was clapping and doing call and response from Peters, who was either playing the acoustic guitar with the full band, or doing a solo “busking” stint with a harmonica and foot pedal bass drum. A few, including yours truly, were dancing on the sidelines as the music really brought me back to my post-punk days. Many of The Alarm’s songs are in the vein of U2 or hard rocking like The Cult, especially a new song called “Neutral” and the classic “Strength.”
There were standing ovations after “Sixty Eight Guns” and “Spirit of 76”, which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed. Peters promised to come back to Clearwater, since the crowd was so appreciative.
A few highlights during the evening was when Peters mentioned the band made their debut on American Bandstand (actually invited before Top of the Pops in the UK); when he came off the stage and walked up and down the aisles to dancing fans; when he chugged a bottle of water and spat it on the crowd during “In the Summertime” (‘it is hot Florida afterall’); and the special moment when he described his passion, the charity Love, Hope, and Strength, which focuses on cancer support centers and building an international marrow database through “Get on the List” campaign. There was a silent auction for a chance to play on stage with a Gibson guitar signed by members of popular 80’s / 90’s bands. The lucky winner was Lowell Smith who ran up to the stage and played the signed guitar and sang along with Peters. Just as an aside, an old personal friend Keri Singh was the “winner” on August 3rd at The Alarm concert at Daryl’s House Club in Pawling New York. The next charity event is Rock the Canyons, which includes an arduous trek in the Grand Canyon for a cause.
Overall, it was a really memorable and feel-good evening of classic 80s hits and many new favs from the new album Equals. To be honest, the new songs like “Thirteen Dead Reindeer”, “Beautiful”, and “Two Rivers”, could have been written in the day–excellent lyrics with a message that resonates with many during a politically divisive time. The music is totally uplifting and fans of U2 and The Cult should really give the album a listen. Just my two cents…
SETLIST: Blaze of Glory, Tomorrow, Absolute Reality, Coming Backwards, The Stand, Peace Now, Thirteen Dead Reindeer, Rain in the Summertime, Two Rivers, Cenotaph, Walk Forever by My Side, Spirit of ’76, Beautiful, Declaration, Marching On, Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke, Sixty Eight Guns….ENCORE–Love, Hope and Strength, Neutral, Strength
The Alarm on American Bandstand