Following the success of The Big Night In series of online streams, The Alarm’s Christmas Gathering beams live into homes worldwide on Saturday 19 December 2020 at 8pm GMT.
Virtual tickets allow exclusive access to the two-hour concert broadcast, which will be geo-synchronised across five Global Time Zones and features the band playing live and electric in a seasonal studio setting. Fans can also expect bonus video content and acoustic performances presented from the North Wales home of Mike and Jules Peters.
The Alarm Christmas Gathering tickets are available here:
Mike Peters said: “To be able to bring the band and the fans together at this special time of year and perform a virtual Alarm Gathering concert from our home to yours is something myself and the band have been dreaming about ever since our collective worlds were turned upside down by the global lockdown earlier in 2020.
“This will be an occasion to turn up the volume, wake up the neighbours, crack open the drinks and have a rocking good time at Christmas. I have always loved this time of year, and to think we have this opportunity to all come together as one big Alarm family through the wonders of the internet via Moment House is a Christmas miracle all of its own.”
Next year will hopefully be better for all us including The Alarm, who celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2021. Their show at St David’s Hall on Saturday 5 June 2021 is exactly 40 years on from the day that they performed their first ever gig as The Alarm at Prestatyn’s Royal Victoria Hotel in 1981.
Neil Collins spoke with Mike Peters about 40 years of The Alarm.
The St David’s Hall 40th anniversary concert sold out straight away due to overwhelming demand. What are your memories of that iconic night at the Hall in 1989 with the Morriston Orpheus Choir?
I remember it being a really massive occasion for us as a band to play at St David’s Hall. We had played there a couple of times before that, but in 1989 it was charged with a lot more awareness of being Welsh and being part of a country from north to south.
We had created the first bilingual rock album in Welsh and English with Change and Newid, so it was quite a charged atmosphere. Cymdeithas yr Iaith – the Welsh Language Society – were involved and were the beneficiaries of that concert. We had Ffred Fransis of Cymdeithas yr Iaith on stage with us at one point. I think it was the first time a lot of us from my generation felt like we could really embrace coming from Wales, and that we weren’t a backwater nation.
I saw Welsh language TV and there were some really impassioned speakers on there politically, but there were no subtitles and I felt that excluded people. We had a policy that whenever we played in Wales in the 80s, we had Welsh language bands opening for The Alarm, and I talked to them before the show and said “The audience out there are English speaking Welsh people like me. They don’t necessarily understand what you’re singing. Why don’t you tell them what the songs are about in English before you play them in Welsh?” But they were like “No, that’s selling out!”
Language is supposed to be about communication and open horizons though. It’s not supposed to be about putting up barriers, and we had a wall built around the Welsh language, so I was thinking how can we take that down and make it more inclusive?
Bilingualism was the way forward, so the atmosphere at that Cardiff concert in ’89 was charged. Wales had been divided as a nation because of the language. That ’89 gig was the spark that came through, and unity happened in the 90s with the whole ‘Cool Cymru’ thing – even though I hate that term! All of a sudden those Welsh language bands, who had supported us like Y Cyrff and Ffa Coffi Pawb had become Catatonia and Super Furry Animals and they were singing in English and Welsh. That ’89 concert was the beginning of that – it changed a lot of things.
Just before that we played at Cardiff Arms Park in July 1987 with U2, and it was the first really big gathering of music fans in Wales. You would be hard pushed to find a bigger one at the time – maybe the Rolling Stones, but I’m talking about with an actual Welsh band on stage. When we came out onto the stage and said “We’re from Rhyl, North Wales”, the place just went mental and we blew the gig to bits!
Luckily, for U2 they had The Pretenders on after us because we owned Cardiff that day! I played a bit of the national anthem on my harmonica before Blaze of Glory, and it was spine-tingling. That was another moment of awakening for our nation. We could actually come together and not be ashamed of it, and celebrate our unity whether we could speak the language or not. That was a big turning point.
The Cardiff gig comes 40 years to the day since The Alarm performed their first ever gig at the Royal Victoria Hotel in 1981. Can you remember what you played that night?
I remember it well. It was a Friday night, and there were two bars at the hotel – the public bar where the gigs happened and a lounge bar for drinking. When we were about to play, most of the people were still in the lounge bar! I said to the band let’s just make some noise before we go on stage and see if we can arouse people’s curiosity. There were no intro tapes at that basic stage of the band’s development. I had half of this song called Shout to the Devil, which ended up on Declaration. So I said “I’ll go on scratching the guitar and you come in with the drums. We’ll get some big tribal chant going and I’ll make up lyrics as we go along.” And that’s how it started – as we were making this noise, one by one people came in and we had an audience!
Later in our set, when we got to playing For Freedom, Third Light, What Kind of Hell and Sixty-Eight Guns, I thought “We’ve got something here.” I could see the audience responding to us differently to the bands that had been on before us.
The plan was then to move to London as I knew that if we were to stay in Wales at that time, our energy would’ve imploded and turned on us. We needed to go away to come back home. We needed to find our feet and establish ourselves in the world. Getting a gig in London was really tough in 1981 and there wasn’t a scene to plug into in Cardiff, so that wasn’t an opportunity for us either, so off we went to Manchester to make our single.
The Gathering often sells out so quickly. How do explain your unique bond with your fans?
There’s not many bands around who can lay claim to having an event like The Gathering that brings their best fans together in one place to become unified, and I always want to give back to them. I’ve never shied away from taking responsibility for the songs I write. There’s some bands who won’t play the hits. I remember Ian McCulloch going on TV when he was doing his solo album and being asked if he was playing any Echo and the Bunnymen songs, and he was like “No way!” Well, that puts off half the audience straight away!
If you commit yourself to writing a song like Sixty-Eight Guns, you can’t get bored of it 40 years later. You don’t get bored of your kids if they’ve done something wrong or got themselves in jail, you don’t disown them! You have to stick with them and nurture them through those tough times. We’ve always been proud of the music we’ve made, and the audience respect that. The fans don’t walk away from you so easily then. They may not like an album as much the others, but they will wait for the next one. It’s a moving landscape, and you’re not going to be at your best all the time. I’ve learned that along the way. But if you give your full commitment, people respect that and they will always come back and give you a second chance
We’ve got a really fiercely loyal relationship with our fans, but we’ve never pandered to the audience and we’ve made some brutal decisions about our music when required. We’ve never taken the easy way out.
The last few years have been a hugely creative and successful period. You’ve been awarded an MBE, played big American gigs and staged emotional homecoming gigs at the Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff University. Equals and Sigma received rave reviews too on both sides of the Atlantic – the latter even topped the UK rock charts!
It’s been incredible. I was at Cardiff Castle last summer when The Killers played Rain in the Summertime, and it’s built a whole new audience for us with digital music. I’m used to filing my records as I’m a record collector – you start with your old records first, you get a new one and it goes behind it. In the Spotify world though, it’s your new album first and then scroll down for your history.
Your 1983 hit The Stand also recently triggered over 1.5 million Spotify plays after featuring in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
That’s our biggest song on Spotify. It’s not Sixty-Eight Guns, it’s The Stand by a country mile and that’s because it’s modern life and it’s become a huge hit for us being on Netflix. When those fans then ‘Shazam’ The Alarm and come into our world, it’s Blood Red Viral Black and Sigma that they get into first.
It’s great for the fans who were there back in 1989 at St David’s Hall like James Dean Bradfield, who was at that gig. It’s great when the old fans see someone, who is as passionate about the new album as they were about Declaration. It has a knock-on effect with everyone, and makes them that little bit prouder that they’ve stuck with a band, who have lived life with them. We’ve been through ups and downs and break-ups and make-ups. It’s a real life story.
6 million albums sold worldwide, 17 Top 50 singles – it has been one hell of a ride. After all you’ve been through as a band and yourself especially with your battles with cancer. It must make you immensely proud that The Alarm are still as vital as ever after 40 years.
I’m so grateful to have been part of it. We’ve been through line-up changes and keeping the band together was really tough in the early days, so I’m really glad we made it through the challenging times. It never stops being like that – keeping people together through your music. You’ve to be honest and true to yourself all the time as well.
All we had to think about 40 years ago was how I was going to get to the gig, and were we going to be able to keep the band together long enough to make the first single!