MIKE PETERS // “YORK DUCHESS” // 28/03/14
Thirty years after first releasing ‘Declaration’ with Welsh band The Alarm, Mike Peters channeled every ounce of his energy into replaying the album on his own terms, without any help whatsoever, relying on a loop station to add texture to his acoustic-rooted melodies.
Back in York amidst another epic world tour, Mike is so passionate about music that it’s impossible not to be inspired. Opening a three-part set that spanned two and a half hours, Mike bustled into ‘Sold Me Down The River’, immediately motivating the crowd to start thumping out a foot-to-floor beat.
Proffering detailed, hugely entertaining stories tied to each song, Mike self-deprecatingly related how him, Dave Sharp & Co. were invited to tour the states with U2, only to fall foul of the first swimming pool into which they tentatively immersed themselves upon arriving in LA. ‘Remember, we had big hair, and it had taken ages to style, hence why we all stayed in the shallow-end so it didn’t get wet!’ chuckled Mike, astonished to think that three decades had passed since him and his axe-wielding cohorts hit the big-time.
No Mike Peters set is complete without an epic rendition of ‘Spirit of ‘76’, and he duly obliged the crowd early on in the first part of his one-man show. Euphoric renderings of ‘Rain in the Summertime’, ‘One Step Closer to Home’, and ‘The Stand’ also took prominence, the latter track having represented a breakthrough single-release for the band.
The second half of the set revolved around a spirited blast-through of ‘Declaration’ which included a fantastically emotive version of ‘Sixty-Eight Guns’, complete with a rarely-heard verse that had been omitted at the time of initial release to make the song a little shorter and thus more radio-friendly. As expected, the fans lapped up every last note, enthralled by the manner in which Mike bounded around the stage.
To folk outside the venue, it must surely have sounded as though Mike had a full band with him. Nothing could have been further from the truth, for he strummed around pre-laid beats, ranging between different microphones for added drama, barely pausing for breath between songs or stories.
Mike’s idea for the band to simultaneously raise their guitars had come from him seeing a photo of Woody Guthrie doing the same, in a bid to better amplify the sound of his acoustic guitar. The raised-aloft-guitar gesture became synonymous with the band’s shows, and Mike continues to raise his guitar in order to introduce ‘Marching On’, one of The Alarm’s most rousing numbers, akin to a call-to-arms.
In recent years, Mike has been involved with a huge number of projects and bands, having been an integral member of Coloursound and Dead Men Walking for starters. He’s also fronted Big Country in his ‘spare-time’. When he’s not bashing out his back catalogue on stage, he’s very often scaling mountains and performing mini-gigs at their peaks in aid of charity.
Come the conclusion of his second set at ‘The Duchess’, the elated crowd clapped, cheered and stamped for more. Mike returned to the stage bearing his trademark grin before treating one and all to a sublime medley of anthemic cuts he’d not had time to perform in full, a gorgeous version of ‘Blaze of Glory’ ushering his fans out of the venue with nothing but smiles creasing their faces. Until next time.