The Alarm At The Foundry (Athens, GA), Wednesday, July 26, 2017, Review
Let’s get this out of the way…yes, lead singer and songwriter Mike Peters is the only original member of The Alarm in the band’s current iteration touring the states. And…spoiler alert for the rest of the review…that’s enough.
Looking at past setlists from this current tour, Peters and company had pretty much been following the standard template for 80s bands shows…play two or three hits and then, “Here’s a new one.” Cue the rush to the bar, right? Maybe it was because Athens was a fresh market for The Alarm (I’ve lived here 25 years and this was their first trip to town) or maybe Mike was simply looking to shake things up, but at last night’s show he announced, “We’re going to try something a little bit different here tonight.”
What followed for the next 100 minutes was, with one inevitable exception…the song that simply had to be saved for the end (I’ll give you 68 guesses), basically The History of The Alarm. It wasn’t quite the “Standards” greatest-hits album cut-for-cut, but it was darn close. From “Unsafe Building” to the band’s 1989 cover of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” it was every signature Alarm song in chronological order.
Peters has always been one of rock’s all-time loquacious onstage raconteurs. If you see him solo, you’ll likely get twice as much talking as singing. Naturally, he had an anecdote for every song and he dropped enough names to fill a Metro Atlanta phone book. Bono…Johnny Rotten…REM…Neil Young, etc. It might’ve been obnoxious coming from just about anybody else, but there’s still a wide-eyed fanboy after all these years in Mike that comes out when he tells his stories that’s…you know what?…endearing.
That he’s here to sing his songs and tell his tales at all is a wonder, having battled lymph cancer and leukemia for the last twenty years. But none of that stopped him from putting a set of high-energy anthems over in a manner that left him soaked in sweat from head to toe by the end of the evening. An evening that culminated with a “new” version of “68 Guns,” including original lyrics that were cut when the song was recorded in 1983.
As he introduced the song, Peters said that the “new” line, “If they take our chances, we’ll create our own” so much represented the ethos of The Alarm going forward that “68 Guns” now belonged at the end of the set as a new song. Sure…go ahead…be cynical and say, “It’s also the living definition of a typical set-closing crowd pleaser.” But last night a sweaty and hoarse-from-singing crowd of very much a certain age in Athens were buying whatever Mike Peters were selling. Show of the year here for me so far.