The Alarm Live in Manchester
Just when you thought the only way to make impact in the music biz was to have your heart replaced by a home computer, along come a whole wave of hot young bands who put feeling first.
If I said the Alarm were contemporaries of U2 and Big Country, I'd be talking in terms of passion and honesty. You might want to hear more. If I said they occasionally brought to mind the Clash, I'd be talking about commitment and hope. You might think 'about time'. If I mentioned Bob Dylan, you might raise an eyebrow.
And if I said they Acoustic rather than electric guitars, you'd probably be positively puzzled. You'd be right to be also intrigued.
My aroused interest led me to Manchester's Hacienda nighterie, a factory project with about as much atmosphere as a lunar crater. The Alarm gave the corpse like club the kiss of life, blowing hot energy and emotion into it's shallow corners while whipping the hardest of the hundred plus punters into a sweaty, singing, fist clenching, front row fevour.
'Shout to the Devil' set the tone marvelously, the beshaded Twist pounding out a heavy drum beat as the two guitars clashed and bassest Eddie McDonald bashed away on a tambourine. It was the sort of rousing anthem this band seem to specialize in, immediately addictive, with a contagious chantalong chorus.
Vocalist / guitarist Mike Peters positively glowed with emotion, his eyes sparkling Bono style, while the other guitarist Dave Sharp seemed to sing almost as much as Mike, though his well honed Mick Jones impersonations on backing vocals were un peu distracting.
The acoustic guitars and occasional mouth organ endow the band with a folky flavour but the fire of the vocals and power of delivery removes them from any thoughts of ageing Roger Whittaker clones in cable knit sweeters and jesus sandals.
'Reasons' saw Mike Peters back in the vocal saddle for a slower, surging pearl of a number, chased by the impressive 'Blaze of Glory', a tough pop outing redolent of Big Country and complete with terrace swing opening and punch the air chorus. Lovely stuff.
'The Stand', their last and best single, got a fierce rendition next, but why is the chorus melody line so infuriatingly familliar? 'Tell Me' had a slow Spectorish wall of noise feel. while 'Third Light' was a real big chant stomper. And that left the set to climax with the urgent 'Across the Border' and the sizzling '68 Guns'.
Inspired by Vietnam and the french semi-revolution as well as the tragic deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King (you know the good die young), it brought to mind 'London Calling' Clash and as usual boasted an infectious chorus. Stirring, spirited stuff.
Encores came as encores do, leaving yours truly certain in the conviction that the Alarm will be massive. Seeing is believing, chaps. Come on down and make the stand.