Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

The Alarm

I have been a fan of The Alarm since seeing them support U2 at Cardiff Arms Park in July 1987 their music has traveled with me for a very long time. The band has over the years seen many changes with frontman Mike Peters never afraid to evolve with the ever-changing moods of an ever demanding audience. Tonight the band arrive in Portsmouth part way through a UK tour which was preceded by a hectic 15 date tour of the USA. Mike and his wife Jules’s struggles with their health have been well documented and to see them both back to full health and still rocking is just so uplifting.

Tonight’s support comes in the form of Fort Worth, USA band “Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts” who storm out onto the stage largely unknown to the vast majority of this audience. Within moments of them starting their first number “Get Down” you could tell the audience are slowly being drawn in by the alluring personalities, style, and music. Frontman Ryan is a cross between a young Bob Dylan and Mike Scott (The Waterboys), his vocals are purely delivered well around this hall. He works hard to connect with the audience using his experiences of UK phrases including the almost unforgiven “C” word which is craftily put into his tune “We Never Should Have Moved to LA” with the lyric “See You Next Tuesday”. The five-piece band dressed in Pulp fiction style suits combined with converse chucks use keys, electric guitars, bass and drums to create a unique sound that features a host of wholesome Americana influences. By the time the band reach their last number they seem to have won over the vast majority of the audience with a fantastic set full of many highlights.

Ryan Hamilton
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The headliners start strongly with a tune usually reserved for their encores, “Blaze of Glory” – the uplifting Alarm anthem that inspires and gets the crowd singing along from the start. Mike, Jules, James, and Smiley are a relatively new line up of the band and during their short time together have bonded like family, motivating audiences with their energy and stimulating performances. They mix older Alarm classics with newer material from the recent album “Equals” with tunes like the optimistic “Peace Now” and the inspiring “Cenotaph”. A rarity from the “Raw” album “Lead Me through the Darkness” is appreciated by the die-hards as well as a great reworked version of “Sold Me down the River”.

The Alarm
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During the “Spirit of 76” Mike stops to tell a brilliant story about how him and original drummer Nigel Twist got to meet Queen legend Freddie Mercury after a gig at the Montreux Rock Festival. It lead to The Alarm supporting Queen at Wembley stadium in 1986 on their infamous Magic Tour. With the drive, passion, and integrity that Mike Peters delivers with each song it is hard not to be drawn in by tonight’s energizing performance. Some purists say the original line up of the band was the best and some prefer the second, but the real truth is that the constant evolution is an exciting thing to be a part of; following a journey of a man and his music that will inspire for generations. The Alarm is a band you can lose yourself in and become part of their journey, once you`re hooked their music will never leave you.

Set Lists
The Alarm
Blaze of Glory
Absolute Reality
Coming Backwards
The Stand
Peace Now
Rescue Me
Lead Me through the Darkness
Rain in the Summertime
Sold Me Down the River
Spirit of ’76
Marching On
Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke
Sixty-Eight Guns

Two Rivers

Ryan Hamilton & the Harelquin Ghosts
Get Down
Records & Needles
We Never Should Have Moved To LA
Karaoke With No Crowd
Bottoms Up (Here`s To Goodbye)
Oh My God
Freak Flag



Words & Pictures by David Chinery

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