Mike Peters and The Alarm Bring Their Gathering To New York City
UK-based band The Alarm, led by Welsh songwriter and frontman Mike Peters, celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2022, undertaking a major tour and continuing their fan-favorite events traditionally known as “The Gathering.” Unfortunately, the historic tour was cut short due to the return of Peters’ leukemia, which he had previously recovered from in 2005, having already beaten lymph cancer in 1996. Since then Peters has been recognized for the co-founding of the charitable Love Hope Strength Foundation to benefit people with cancer and leukemia. Facing this new challenge, Peters brought optimism and determination to the treatment period which followed, and even found that a wealth of songs were waiting to be uncovered while in hospital. Those songs became the just released album, Forwards, which is currently charting in the UK.
After writing and recording Forwards, Peters was able to take part in a 2023 “Gathering” in Wales, and then undertook a solo acoustic tour around the UK to test out his new medication, and limits, for live performance. This also became a period of self-discovery, adjusting old songs and new to the acoustic format and interacting directly with fans. With a hopeful outlook, Mike Peters and The Alarm also planned “The Gathering: New York,” with two nights of live shows, a record shop signing, and a charity walk to reach out to their American fans for the first time since 2019. The New York events were successfully held last weekend, on June 23rd and 24th, at The Gramercy Theater on 22nd street.
Each night of the performance had a special bonus feature in the form of a documentary premier. On June 24th, the film was a premiere of Season Two of the BBC’s TV show Rewind: 60 Years of Welsh Pop, which is scheduled to run on August 4th, 2023. The series will highlight Welsh music artists, but for the first time an episode has been dedicated exclusively to Mike Peters and The Alarm. The documentary brought a chronological perspective to the development of The Alarm and Mike Peters’ own evolution as a songwriter and performer, from their early days opening for U2 (a date which recently hit a 40th anniversary also), to Peters’ solo work, and return to the band name The Alarm in the 2000s.
But something particularly special about showing this documentary to The Alarm’s gathered fans in the USA was the emphasis the program put on the band’s services to the Welsh language. Less known in the USA is the journey of the Welsh language back into public prominence and the part that The Alarm played in releasing a charting Welsh bilingual song for the first time in Pop music. By emphasizing the band’s place in significant Welsh cultural movements, the show brought home the context which Peters has always represented as a native Welsh speaker.
The second bonus feature of the night was Mike Peters’ willingness to play an entire acoustic solo set drawn from his experiences on his recent UK tour, but a first time for fans in the USA to encounter Peters’ approach. The careful time and consideration put into choosing songs and arranging them for this approach was as apparent as the energy which Peters brought to the stage during a still very much Rock ‘n Roll solo set. It was hard not to continually remind oneself that the sound was being generated by only one human being, so closely did Peters seem to mimic a full band sound, carrying both the emotion of the vocals and the force of the melodies. One thing this highlighted, as well, is how melody-driven Peters’ songs have always been, making them accessible for stripped-down performances. This is probably part of why fans have always been so apt to sing along as well.
The full band set which followed carried as much force as a full USA tour might, perhaps making up for lost time, but also building on the mood of the night as the final performance for the New York Gathering. A quick look through social media earlier that day showed fans traveling from as far afield as Detroit and Florida to attend the show, and that’s not at all unusual in the history of The Alarm performances. They typically draw a very dedicated crowd. Some at the show had even witnessed The Alarm opening for U2 in their early days. For a group of four band members performing melodic music, The Alarm have certainly fine-tuned the biggest Rock sound possibly to suit their personality and subject matter.
Particular stand-outs were the performance of five or six brand new tunes from Forwards, an album already created with plenty of emotional punch, driven by Peters’ own life observations while facing down illness. The sound and themes of the new songs were just as challenging and life-affirming as the songs the band has long been known for, and if possible, even more anthemic, like the title track “Forwards” itself. But Peters and The Alarm were hardly going to have a USA homecoming without playing their biggest hits and favorites, and Springsteen-style, they wrapped many of them into a big finale which continued to build over a long enough roll-out that even The Boss would be sure to approve. The Gramercy theater, which has a hybrid of seating and standing space, was sold out both nights, and even the four-hour event didn’t stop fans from dancing right to the end of the show.
It would have been highly forgivable if Mike Peters’ own performance had shown signs of the wear and tear he’s been through since 2022, but that was far from anyone’s mind witnessing New York: The Gathering 2023. As you might expect from him, those experiences were totally surpassed not only by his dedication to making this a night to remember for the audience, but also by the joy of music, both newer and older, and sharing that joy with others.
Find more show dates here: https://thealarm.com/mike-peters/
Enjoy our interview here: Interview: Mike Peters of The Alarm Always Faces “Forwards”