Visions of America
Among the British bands currently invading the higher reaches of the American charts are Dublins favorite sons, U2. For part of their mammoth tour there earlier this summer, they brought over The Alarm as special support act. What's it like for an up and coming British group in The States for the first time, where the people may be jumping at anything remotely British, yet are still in such a different country? Mike Peters of The Alarm kept a diary of the trip specially for Jamming!
June 1st Los Angeles
To the strains of '68 Guns' sung by our ever present, ever-faithful, self-titled Family Of Fans, we left Heathrow Airport at midday bound for America, our plan to beat jetlag (stay up all night and sleep on the plane) failing miserably as we were too excited to even blink, never mind sleep. As we flew over North America, all of us trying to look out of one porthole at the back of the plane, we imagined what the Beatles must have felt as they flew over for the first time. Nowadays every household has head of The Beatles, yet we were coming in to no screaming girls, only some old man muttering 'Holy Mackerel!' at the sight of Twist walking through the airport doors!
June 3rd San Francisco
After an eight hour drive from L.A., we had our first taste of what we had all imagined was America. Driving over The Bay Bridge into San Francisco the view was unreal - the high rises all reach up for miles, and with Alcatraz Prison on the right and behind it The Golden Gate bridge, you've got to be there to really feel the power of the view. We headed for the Civic Centre, an almighty venue of 10,000 capacity unseated, where we were third on the bill with a band called Romeo Void appearing before U2. As we prepared to go on stage for our first ever gig in America, the tension in the air was tremendous, especially as we hadn't done a soundcheck or even had time to change our guitar strings - it really was into the unknown. The light of experience filled the hall and we ran on to the largest audience we had ever faced in our lives. The feeling of performing in front of all those people, who had never heard a note of music by The Alarm before, was a great experience. It was such a clallenge to reach to the farthest corners and try and win every single soul, that it brought some fantastic moments for us. We found ourselves playing a lot more powerfully than we'd every done before, and after the gig we talked for hours with people about America and music, learning a lot to carry to the next show.
June 5th Salt Lake City
We drove all night from S.F. to Salt Lake City and I took the wheel about midnight. There was a terrific thunderstorm that I thought was literally beautiful; to see it light up the whole sky, I was really taken in with it and ended up driving all the way into Salt Lake City. Just as dawn was breaking we could see the white of the salt flats all around us, and reached S.L.C. around 8.00. On arrival everyone went straight to bed except Redeye (part of the Alarm road crew) and myself, who decided to get something to eat. We set off up the road but had to turn back after only 200 yards due to all the locals (in cars and on foot) freaking out over our haircuts. In Britain people may be conservative, but over here they're wild.
June 7th Denver
Red Rocks Auditorium is a venue cut out into the mountain in Denver, Colorado, and is designed to give perfect acoustics. It was here that U2 performed the set shown on The Tube Special. The gig itself had to be canceled due to rain and another gig was hastily arranged in Boulder about 30 miles away, but so many people turned up at Red Rocks that U2 decided to perform a few numbers without support. Once they hit the stage everyone knew that something special was about to happen :- the rain continued to fall as U2 turned in one of the most spectacular and honest performances I have ever witnessed. The entire show has been captured on film, and with band and audience battling against the elements, it makes essential viewing.
June 10th Tulsa
Traveling overnight to Tulsa, we decided to take Route 44 rather than the Interstate so as we could enjoy a more scenic journey. At about 10.00pm we stopped in a town called Craig to get something to eat; upon entering the restaurant, the man behind the counter said, as though in a typical Western, "Boys, have you picked the wrong town!" We calmed him down enough to be allowed to eat there, but were told that in some places in The Bible Belt - the mid - West of America - we could end up getting arrested for looking weird!
June 11th Austin
Saturday night in Austin, Texas, and after the gig the only place to be is Sixth Street which is packed with bars, discos and restaurants, and teeming with young people. We met lots of people who came to talk to us, asking where we were from etc. - everyone was very friendly, even though they were taken aback by our appearance, which, as I've explained, receives a more fierce reation than in Britain.
June 16th Los Angeles
While in L.A. we did our first headline show at The Club Lingerie after playing with U2 the night before in the sports arena. When we arrived at the gig lot's of people were being turned away, including all of U2. We managed to persuade the management to let our Irish pals in but most people were being turned away as they didn't have ID to prove they were over 21 (as in U2s case) or simply weren't old enough anyway. It was unfortunate that we weren't informed of this in advance, but American clubs are really strict about the legal drinking ages, which, though it varies state to state, is generally 20-21, thus forcing groups into playing concert rather than club tours so that everyone can get in. As a result, young audiences never experience the closeness of a good club gig.
June 20th Florida
This is where we first felt the heat, everything else paling into significance in the mad rush for cold drinks or escape indoors to the comfort of the air conditioning. By this part of the tour the travelling, playing and so on really hit us; as a result, we saved all our energies for the stage and interviews, which were starting to come in thick and fast as news of the Alarm spread.
June 29th New York
The last night of the tour:- 18 dates for us, 50 for U2. The scene:- Pier 84, Hudson Bay, an aircraft carrier moored on Pier 83. The gig (an open air concert) had completely sold out and was a marvelous setting for the last night of the tour which was a triumph for all concerned. We carried on to do three more shows of our own, finishing with a sell out gig at the Ritz Ballroom. We left New York on July 3rd, the day before Independence. We knew that it would take us a while to assimilate everything that happened to us personally and musically, but what we all do know however, is that we all had the time of our lives, and are looking forward to returning again later this year.