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THE ALARM

ARTIST: The Alarm with The Fixx and The English Beat
DATE: July 13, 2008
VENUE: Irving Plaza, New York, NY
REVIEWER: Lynn Malpass


I'm feeling nostalgic today.

Why? Because last night I went back in time a little bit and revisited the days of my youth - the days of MTV when they still showed music videos, and when UK alternative, punk and pop bands were invading the US by storm. The early 80's were an important time for music, and a huge era for British bands in general, and some of the best of that time are, thankfully, still onstage and spreading their "retro" 80's sound and making new fans in younger people as they do. There were so many great bands that popped up during that time. So many excellent musicians who influenced music today like Devo, Cyndi Lauper, The B-52s, Spandau Ballet, The Clash, Duran Duran... the list goes on and on. Many of the bands from the era have faded away, of course. It happens to the best of them. But if you look closely within the fiber of the music world today, many of them - bands and artists - are still there. Of course we all know of the biggies, the ones you'd have to be living under a rock to not know are there, U2 - a band that got its start in the wee beginnings of that Brit-punk era - being at the top of the list. But there are others if you look.

Actually, most of the bands I just mentioned above are all still performing and even releasing new music, much to the pleasure of we, the 80's generation. I, for one, am still dying to see Duran Duran, one band that by the time I was able to go to concerts, they had rocketed to so much fame that I was never able to actually get a ticket! But last night, I was treated to see some of the most influential bands of the era, and it was an amazing night. At New York City's Irving Plaza, I had a chance to see The Alarm, The Fixx, and The English Beat - a really spectacular example of what UK alt rock was about then. Through the years and the break-ups and reformations, the old songs and the new, these three bands put on a superb performance and, seasoned rockers that they are, sounded just like they did at the height of their heydays.

The English Beat - the original ska band - was the headliner of the night, and they were excellent. Still lead by Dave Wakeling's notable voice, the band here in the US are a collection of touring musicians backing Wakeling (while most of the original "The Beat" members are occasionally playing in the UK), but the sounds is all there, which... is what's important, right? The voice and the sax, the vocal backings and the bass... all there as they put on a great performance to a packed house playing old favorites such as "Hands Off She's Mine," "Twist and Crawl," and "I Confess," among many, many others. And of course, The English Beat would not be The English Beat without their Smoky Robinson cover, "Tears of a Clown," and then probably the most notable of the band's tunes, "Mirror in the Bathroom," an anthem song of the era which appeared on the sountrack of Grosse Pointe Blank, starring the king of 80's fliks, John Cusack.

Prior to The English Beat taking the stage, the venerable band The Fixx played, and yes I know I am reviewing in reverse here, but I have my reasons. The Fixx, I have wanted to see them forever. I will admit, it was the white horse in their video for "Stand or Fall" which initially drew my attention to the band so many years ago when they were "new". But it didn't take long to realize they were unique, talented, and really addictive. Onstage, though the band has aged, as we all have, they played with the same finesse as before, like it was still 1985. The hour-long plus set included a good variety of songs including all the favorites like the aforementioned "Stand of Fall," plus all the other songs that would be missed had they not been played: "Red Skies at Night, Saved By Zero, One Thing Leads To Another, Deeper and Deeper, and more. So good. Makes me really regret not having seen them at the height of the era.

However, for me, the real highlight of the night was the "technical" show opener, The Alarm. Now, The Alarm is one band who can cater to most of the masses these days, as they have been all these years with the popularity and playability of some of their songs that have made it to - and stayed on - popular radio. But the true spirit of Brit "pop-punk" really rings true seeing this band live. The on-stage energy presented by lead singer and band founder Mike Peters, and the rest of the present band lineup - Craig Adams (formerly of Sisters of Mercy and The Cult) on bass, James Stevenson (formerly of Generation X and The Cult) on guitar and Steve Grantley (formerly of Stiff Little Fingers) on drums - was contagious. The Alarm quickly got the place rocking after an impressive opening applause as they first took the stage, and we were all quickly bouncing and singing along to favorites, both old and new. Impressive as well, there were a good number of younger fans in the audience, too, which made me glad. Glad that there are younger people today who know about bands like The Alarm and their contribution to British rock, and rock music in general, and who can appreciate them.

Currently touring with the Rock the Colonies Tour, The Alarm are supporting their new album, Guerrilla Tactics, which was just released on July 8th. The album takes the band back to its roots, and the original sound The Alarm had back in its early days and, honestly, hearing these new songs live - songs like "Three Sevens Clash," which is a regular punk-rock anthem of old, "The Alarm Calling," a tribute to The Clash, and "Situation Under Control," - it easily took me right back to those MTV days. And of course they played some of the old favorites as well, like "68 Guns," "Rescue Me," and "The Stand," among others. They also played "45 RPM," a song The Alarm released a few years back under the pseudonym of The Poppy Fields and which rose to chart heights, proving that an "old band" could still compete with all the new music (Now where have we seen this being done recently? Does the name Foxboro Hot Tubs ring a bell to anyone?).

By the end of the set, Peters and the band were well sweated up, as were most of the audience, from the amount of fun everyone was having, singing back and interacting with the band. Oh, and the bar was only right across the floor, so that helped the evening along as well. Young and old(er) though, the sentimental love for this band was obvious, as was the encouragement and excitement over the new material, making me think The Alarm still has a very long and illustrious future ahead of them. Apparently they've got the staying power, as the band has been proving over the years, time and time again.

So here's to seeing The Alarm yet again, when Mike Peters takes them on tour again this fall, and also participates in a special event - a trek to Macchu Picchu for the Love Hope Strength Foundation, a cancer awareness group founded by Peters as he has battled a form of leukemia. Peters is currently in remission and feeling well, though his efforts and positivity are ever-present in The Alarm's music, which continues to play on and on... The trek will happen in conjunction with Peru Rocks, a charity concert to be held at the top of the mountain. Then, in November, The Alarm kicks off The Alarm Make A Stand in The UK tour.

For more information about The Alarm, what they've been up to and what's happening next, check them out on their official website at www.thealarm.com and at their MySpace at www.myspace.com/thealarm. You can find out more about the charity concert and trek at www.perurocks.org, and the Love Hope Strength Foundation at www.lovehopestrength.org.