It had been 25 years since I had last seen Mike Peters & The Alarm on stage in Cardiff. The previous time they were supporting U2 at The Arms Park. That was a day I remember for there being no alcohol inside the stadium, which meant an evening on Panda Pops! Roll the clock forward and once again I was on soft drinks, but this time down to the fact that I was driving to Cardiff from home in Reading.
Over the last couple of years Mike has reworked the songs of The Alarm's first two albums, Declaration & Strength. He has predominantly been touring these albums as a one man band aside from the annual Gathering shows where we have been given a taster of the potential that was fully realised at this concert at the Millennium Centre.
The early evening saw a screening of the director's cut of The Man In The Cameo Jacket, which is a forthcoming film which documents Mike's career in the music industry and his 20 year battle with cancer. Prior to the concert Mike had gone public about the recent return of his cancer, which he is now battling a third time. The film was terrific, and received a well earned standing ovation at the end. Mike took to the stage to another standing ovation. The absolute love and support for him inside the hall was not something I have often seen.
The question is just how many musicians can you get on one stage. Answers on a postcard to thealarm.com. By the end of the evening Mike & The Alarm were on stage with two choirs, Acquire & the Morriston Orpheus Choir, plus the Welsh Pops Orchestra.
2015 has seen the 30th anniversary of Strength and the set featured a large part of it. The highlights for me from that album were the performances of Deeside, Spirit of 76 and The Day The Ravens The Tower. Seeing these songs with full orchestral arrangements in such a wonderful setting was an experience that will not be forgotten. The sheer power and beauty of an orchestra was simply stunning! Adding to that the performance of Acquire, who have performed at The Gathering, and who were once again a real treat to watch. I have always thought more recent performances of Alarm classics have lacked backing vocals... Well that certainly wasn't the case here!
The reworking of 68 Guns was always going to be a bit special, and I wasn't disappointed. The older songs were given a new lease of life. If only it might be possible for this show to go on the road as a full tour... I always enjoy performances of The Stand, which is the song I first heard on John Peel in 1983 that got me into The Alarm. Other songs included Marching On, Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke, One Step Closer To Home, Breathe, My Town, One Guitar, Blaze of Glory, and Rain In The Summertime. A special mention must be made of the rendition of A New South Wales which saw the arrival on stage of The Morriston Orpheus Choir. It was quite brilliant. The set lasted for a good two and half hours, and it was one of the best concerts I have been to. When I first saw The Alarm at The Marquee Club in 1983, I never would have thought that 32 years later I would see many of the same songs performed with the orchestra and choirs.
Mike took great delight in celebrating Wales qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals when the result was shouted out to him during the evening. As an Englishman in the audience I could not bring myself to join in the "Wales, Wales" that rang around the auditorium! No offence :-)
Mike now begins his cancer treatment. I found out the day before the cancer that my mother's bowel cancer has returned for a third time so it was quite an emotional evening for me. Mike let me photograph him at Abbey Road for the forthcoming Lives & Times fundraising book I am publishing to raise funds for Beating Bowel Cancer. I can only wish Mike the very best in beating it again.