3rd Space, Great Orme Brewery, Llandudno
Tonight’s venue is a cosy “3rd Place” at the Great Orme Brewery in Llandudno, North Wales. This weekend signals the start of the annual pilgrimage for fans of The Alarm to the Gathering and this year it is celebrating its 25th year. To somewhat extend the event a little further the current Alarm drummer Steve “Smiley” Barnard has put on tonight’s Thursday evening event as a big excuse to promote his new album “Smiley’s Friends Eclectic”, which features songs including Ian Mcnabb and Chesney Hawkes. Smiley has had a fruitful career sitting behind the drum kit for a number of notable artists including Joe Strummer and the Mescalero’s, Robbie Williams, The Mock Turtles, Archive and From the Jam.
The evening starts off with up and coming East Midlands singer/songwriter Matt Peach; who has recently worked with Smiley on a new single called ‘Now”, which is to be released later this month in aid of the Charity “Love Hope Strength”. Matt is engaging and really gets the party started with a collection of songs that the audience seem to really get into. A song from his previous band “Vicious Liberty” called “Liberation Radio” which name checks The Alarm’s “68 Guns”, gets a few of us singing along. There is also some new material which includes a fine tune called “I’m Alive”, which shows off the considerable range of Matt’s powerful vocals.
Smiley takes to the stage with a glass of wine in his hand and has promised Jules Jones Peters (Mike Peters Wife) with fingers crossed behind his back, not to get drunk tonight. Right from the start “his Royal Smileyness” is full of lighthearted stories and has much honest admiration for all the people he has worked with. At first we get a trip around the British Isles with songs from The Beatles, Oasis and U2, as well as some material from the new record. The very infectious “So Kardashian” has a cleverly written lyrical hook “She’s so fashion, So Kardashian” that gets everyone in the place singing. There is also a respectful Ian McNabb impression on “No One Counts for Money” which is not that far away from the real thing.
The guests start to arrive with “Frees Company’s” Steve Webster taking to the stage, to give his powerful vocal talents on “I Feel like Making Love”. Steve dedicates the song to his new fiance Melissa, who has recently just accepted his romantic marriage proposal. Steve unknowingly carries out a secret Mission for Jules Jones Peters, when he pretends to be a little drunk and knocks over 3 glasses of Smileys wine as he leaves the stage. For that split second Smiley stops smiling for the first time in over a decade and Steve is sent to the bar post haste to refill the emptied glasses!
Next up to the stage is BBC Radio Wales DJ Alan Thompson who joins in with the fun with a nice version of The Beatles “Ticket to Ride”. Looking a little like a Welsh Ray Winstone Alan brings some more maturity to proceedings. As the wine keeps flowing Smiley’s bestie from The Alarm (and Chelsea/Generation X/Gene Loves Jezebel/The Cult/Kim Wilde/Holy Holy…… etc.) James Stevenson comes along with his acoustic guitar to bring us some “Bowie”. The duo belt out a beautiful version of “Starman” which gets everyone singing together to the chorus in a lovely unison, giving us a reason to fondly remember this awesome performer just after the first anniversary of his death.
Smiley takes his bows after nearly a two-hour performance and gets himself much adulation from the delighted crowd, but things are not quite over……. Young Matt Peach throws down the gauntlet to his guitar hero James Stevenson to play a couple of “Alarm” songs together; which include a version of “68 Guns” which nearly blows the roof off this small brewery, with every Alarm fan in the place singing at the tops of their voice in yet another word-perfect unison. This ended a really perfect evening and amazing appetiser to the Gathering weekend ahead.
Words Pictures & Videos by Dave Chinery (Chinners)