Bands Reunited 2003 – The Alarm

Nigel’s Bands Reunited Itinerary supplied to the archive by Nigel Twist
(Click to enlarge)

The Alarm – Bands Reunited – A Review from 28th October 2003
This review was written by Graham Lampen a week after The Alarm performed a one off gig for
VH1’s Bands Reunited show in 2003. It was originally published on the Alarm Yahoo Fan Group

It is now almost a week since The Alarm’s reunion show at The Scala. It has taken me until now to collect my thoughts, and I have tried to represent them as accurately and honestly as I can. This is a long and highly personal account of the events of Tuesday 28th October 2003. I apologise in advance if the superlatives are too gushing, the account is romanticized and the objectivity non-existent. If I have got any of the facts wrong, or remembered things incorrectly then I am sorry. But this was an extraordinary day in my life, one I have waited for a long, long time. The mixed emotions were hard to get down on the page, but I have done my best and this is the result

How can a moment you have waited for so long ever live up to your expectations?

I have waited for this day ever since my jaw dropped and my heart sank as I heard Mike utter those immortal words in Brixton a lifetime ago. And now it is here. Reunion Day. They said it would never happen, some said it SHOULD never happen, but on Tuesday 28th October 2003 it DID happen. And boy did it happen! I spent the whole day feeling sick with nerves and excitement. The day floated past like a dream – I couldn’t concentrate on anything
The Alarm are playing tonight.

And I am going! A whole raft of emotions passed through my head all day long. What will they sound like? What will they look like? Is this really a good thing? You know when you wish for something so much, thinking it will never happen?
You are so used to the (almost comforting) certainly that it will never come to pass that when it does, you are completely thrown. Well, that is how I felt. My dream is coming true today, and I am not sure if I want it to. I mean, what if they are crap? What if it is a hugely disappointing exercise in going through the motions? What if I leave at the end of the night wishing it had never happened? All these thoughts and more were rattling around my head as I sat in the taxi on the way to the gig. My wife Rachel said to me that I looked so nervous, anyone would think I was going on stage myself! That’s exactly how I felt
“I don’t know if I can handle this” I tell her. And at that moment, I really did wonder if I could.

Arriving at the gig, we take our places in the queue. There are friends (real and virtual) all around, and a palpable sense of excitement in the air. We are queuing up to see The Alarm tonight! As always with this band, they always seem to choose to play during the British winter. Queuing in the cold only seems to add to the occasion though. As well as evoking memories of Alarm tours gone by, I get that amazing feeling that I am sure is common to all Alarm fans – that small thrill and sense of pride you get when you see a stranger in the street wearing an Alarm t-shirt, or you walk past an open window and hear 68 Guns playing. Here we are – hundreds of people who have come from all over the world to hear four guys play a handful of songs that they haven’t played together for almost 13 years. People are queuing round the block! For a band that the critics wrote off as meaningless 20 years ago. Well, tonight we are going to show the band that they are not meaningless. We are going to show them how much all four of them mean to us. We are going to show them how much we love them and how much we have missed them

A limousine pulls up. Cameras are trained on the door as the chauffeur opens it and out steps legendary guitarist Dave Sharp. A huge cheer goes up from the queue. Dave smiles and waves, visibly touched, then ducks quickly inside. We later learn that he felt kind of embarrassed by doing the “big star” bit. The excitement has been raised a notch by the appearance of Mr. Sharp – this thing is really happening! The Alarm are playing here tonight! You can tangibly feel that the tension and excitement is rising by the minute – a feeling compounded by the arrival of another star. The whole queue cranes their necks as one to see who is going to step out of the limo this time. Is that Tom Selleck with a goatee beard? No. It is the one and only Mr Nigel Twist, looking relaxed, looking healthy, and looking pretty damn cool. The cheer passes down the queue like a Mexican wave as people realise who it is. A chorus of Blaze of Glory rings out to welcome this hero to his home, Things are happening now – it is freezing, but we don’t notice. Some people have been standing here for over four hours already but it doesn’t matter. We are going to see The Alarm play tonight! The limo appears again. The door is opened and another huge cheer greets a smiling Mike Peters. In typical fashion, Mike walks the entire length of the queue (which by now, is stretching around the block) shaking hands and greeting every single person. He says, “thanks for coming”! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world Mikey-boy!

Blaze of Glory is still ringing out as the cameras follow Mike inside, and some bemused German tourists ask me what is happening here. “The Alarm are playing here tonight!”

Suddenly another camera crew appears as Eddie McDonald emerges from the venue. He is greeted by another tremendous cheer from the crowd, as he is ushered into the waiting limo to be driven around the block, and then filmed “arriving”! Despite the cold, the sense of excitement is at fever pitch as Eddie returns, greeting fans and posing for pictures for “The Golly Collection” before disappearing inside. Familiar faces from the Alarm family are arriving by the minute. Gaz Top, Ian Wilson, Kirk Brandon, Craig Adams Steve Allen Jones. Finally those of us with the blue wristbands are let in. It is a relief to be out of the cold, but it is more of a relief to know that we are in and that there is now no possible way that we are going to miss out on witnessing this incredible event. We head up to the bar and say hello to Erin Sharp looking fit and well, here to see her husband play with The Alarm for the first time EVER! She is as excited as anyone in the building.

It is my first time at The Scala and I am impressed. What a great venue for an Alarm reunion show! Its intimacy is reminiscent of the fabulous venues that the band played in the early days like The Marquee. There is a small stage bathed in spotlights, a red drum kit with a poppy logo on the front of the bass drum (presumably on loan from Mr Grantley) and a bank of amplifiers. 3 mike stands line the front of the stage, and the butterflies in my stomach have a burst of hyperactivity as I realize that in less than an hour THEY will be standing at those mikes. Even standing there in the venue looking down from the balcony at the gathering crowd, having seen the four lads enter the building, I still can’t quite believe that this is really happening. There is a dreamlike air of unreality hanging over me, and like many others here tonight, I actually have to pinch myself to make sure I am really here and this is really happening.

The Alarm are playing here tonight!

So what am I doing standing up here on the balcony?!
Time to get down to the moshpit to join my brothers and sisters – those rare people who know what I am talking about when I say this is the most important band in the world. For me they always have been, and never more so than tonight. There is tension in the air, a real sense of expectation, excitement, and exhilaration. You can feel it. Spontaneous bursts of Blaze of Glory keep breaking out and spreading through the crowd like wildfire, each one ending in a massive cheer. I am so nervous. The Adrenalin is pumping through my system as I arrive downstairs accompanied by Erin who is about to witness the experience of an Alarm moshpit for the first time. The place is full of friends and the atmosphere is electric. The lights go down and the cheer goes up as the VH1 guy comes onto the stage for the big build up. But no build up is necessary -The Alarm are playing here tonight! His words pass by in a blur – all I remember is him saying “Tonight, The Alarm are a…” “band reunited!” we shout as rehearsed.

The moment has arrived. The tension builds and builds and then erupts as Nigel Twist appears punching his hands in the air as he takes his place behind the drumkit. Dressed in black and looking great, I realize that this is going to be the first time I have ever seen Nige play without his sunglasses on. The crowd are going crazy as Twist is quickly joined on stage by Dave Sharp, Mike Peters and Eddie McDonald. The Alarm are standing on stage together for the first time in twelve and a half years. It is an overwhelming moment – all around me people are crying, laughing, hugging – the emotion is incredible in the crowd, so I can only imagine what it must have felt like for our four heroes. For a moment they stand there taking it all in, and I hope that the love from all of us who have waited so long to see this is hitting them like a tidal wave. Dave straps on his blond telecaster, Mike has the original Alarm acoustic – bastardised and customised by Dave Sharp in another lifetime, and Eddie is on stage with a bass guitar in his hand for the first time since Brixton

Mike, looking like he can hardly believe this is happening himself, greets us and sets the mood by looking around at his bandmates and exclaiming “Before we start, I’d just like to say – I love these guys!” The crowd goes ballistic! I am on cloud nine just to see the lads together, but still nervous as hell as to what the performance will be like.

Suddenly the opening bars of Declaration ring out, but wait, something is wrong. The guitars are horizontal. This isn’t the way that The Alarm are supposed to play Declaration. Just as my heart is sinking, Mike and Dave walk to the front of the stage and raise their guitars into the trademark Alarm salute. They are joined by Eddie who raises his bass in unity with the other two. They all have smiles on their faces and the crowd are loving it. Seeing those 3 guitars held aloft in unison is an amazing sight. I am overwhelmed, and I feel as if my heart is going to burst with pride and happiness. It is at this moment that all my fears and anxieties about tonight are swept aside and I know everything is going to be all right…I should never have doubted. After all, this is not just any band playing here tonight – this is The Alarm.
“Take this song of freedom….”
Every voice in the place sings in unison with Mike. Marching On passes in a frenzy, and as I look around the moshpit at the faces of my Alarm family, their expressions are a joy to behold. Every old argument is forgotten, there is no name to debate, no Mike fans, no Dave fans, tonight we are all Alarm fans united in the joy of seeing our band together again. The song ends and the roar from the crowd is deafening. One song in and The Alarm have already rocked the place. I made a promise to the members of the Alarm family around the world who couldn’t be here tonight. I promised that I would shout and cheer and clap on their behalf -that I would give every ounce of energy I have, to let the boys know how much we have all missed them and how much they mean to us. It seems I’m not the only one. The crowd seems to be almost moving and thinking as one. We are all totally on the same wavelength as if linked telepathically. As if to prove my point, a chant goes up from the audience “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” much to the amusement of Mr McDonald. He seems a little embarrassed, but obviously touched and the other guys enjoy watching Eddie savour the moment
“1, 2, 3, 4!”
Where Were You Hiding? It sounds perfect. Have these boys really only had a day to rehearse? Where are my playing cards? I wonder as I check my pockets. Disaster! I have left them in my coat on the balcony. I consider running up to get them, but don’t want to lose my place in the crowd. I signal up to Rachel on the balcony. She will have to throw them for me. She’s not an Alarm fan, but is here because she knows what tonight means to me, and she wants to witness such an important event in my life. She understands my mad gesturing from below, and gets the cards ready. She knows what to do. I needn’t have worried about not having any cards; John Ramsay presses some into my hand, as does Lily. When I look at the top card I am touched to see that she has written “Declared Unsafe” across it. I think this is brilliant, and contemplate slipping the card into my pocket as a memento of tonight. But then I realise that this personalised card has been flown all the way from the USA and it is only right that it be thrown. As Mike sings the immortal line, The Scala is turned into a house of cards as hundreds and hundreds of them fill the air. It is going to look so cool on the TV! I later discover that Rachel has been caught up in the spirit of unity as she shared my cards with the person next to her on the balcony too. This crowd is putting in a world-class performance. As the song ends another telepathic chant goes up from the floor: “Nigel! Nigel! Nigel!”
Twist is grinning like a Cheshire cat, and I find myself thinking “we must be going to do Dave after the next song”. But Mike beats us to it, saying
“And what about Mr Dave Sharp?”
A huge cheer goes up followed by the obligatory
“Sharpy! Sharpy! Sharpy!”
I look at Erin looking at her husband, both of them with huge smiles on their faces, and I feel so glad that Erin has finally got to see this moment

Mike says, “It’s been a long time coming and it’s good to be back – the crowd hanging on every word and loving it. He introduces Mark Taylor to the stage – “A bridge between the old Alarm and the new.” He gets a huge welcome from the fans, then the band launch into Strength. For the second time I find myself thinking One day’s rehearsal? On the basis of this performance, I find that impossible to believe. This song sounds so good you’d swear they had been practicing for months. John Ramsay hoists Erin onto his shoulders to watch Dave do his stuff, and again, it is a brilliant moment. Dave whips up an electrical storm as he plays a note perfect outro to the song. Mike looks at Dave with a huge smile as if to say “You’re still my Guitar Hero!” Sold Me Down The River is the first time that I am aware that the lack of rehearsal time has had any effect. However, a couple of fluffs and a missed cue are met with smiles and laughter from the band and only seem to add to the charm of seeing them playing together again. “Do you wanna feel the Rain in the Summertime?” I have a momentary attack of nerves as I remember James Stevenson’s words about how difficult the riff of this song is to play. Will Sharpy be able to do it after only a day’s rehearsal? Oh me of little faith – this is Dave Sharp we are talking about. He nails it and it sounds incredible. This feels like a dream more than ever. It is so surreal, and I have lost all concept of time. All that matters is the here and the now, as I try to absorb every last detail. Well, it’s not every day that one of your biggest dreams come true, is it? 68 Guns is up next – will we get the short or the long version? With the lack of rehearsal time you would put your money on the short one, wouldn’t you? Well, not only do we get the long version, we get the obscure early version with the alternative lyrics! Twist really goes for it on the “when you’re young” bit, pounding those skins as brilliantly as he ever has

The energy in the crowd is relentless, and the feeling of unity is very powerful. We are all the same. We all love this band. We have all waited for this moment. We are all seeing our dreams come true tonight. We are one. We are together. We are majority. John Ramsay has spent the last couple of songs at the barrier. Seeing me behind him, he generously gives up his place so that I can have a turn at the front. I take my place as Rescue Me seems to pass at a million miles an hour. Sensing that the end of the set is approaching, the energy in the crowd seems to have shifted up a gear, maybe it is being at the very front, but the moshpit seems to go into overdrive. All too soon it is over and the lads leave the stage. A chant of Blaze of Glory rings out before that amazing telepathy kicks in again, and we all sing a complete version of One Step Closer in perfect unison. THE hairs on the back of my neck stood up for this one. Here we all are, fans of a band that split up over 12 years ago, fans that have traveled from all over the world to be here, all singing together as if our lives depended upon it, as we welcome our four heroes back out onto the stage.

And heroes are exactly what they are. It strikes me at that moment, that this is one of the amazing things about these guys. Offstage, whenever I have talked to any of them, they are normal down-to-Earth people. But when they get together on stage and make music, something magical happens. The Alarm is the sum of its parts. An amazing chemistry exists when all four are on stage together, and as they return for possibly their final performance together, I stand in awe – amazed that these four people can still move me as much as they did 20 years ago. Mike steps up to the microphone: “The last time that we were all on stage together and about to play this song, these lads didn’t know what I was going to say
Nothing’s changed – they still don’t tonight! (laughs)
Well, that night didn’t end very nicely, so tonight gives me a chance to maybe put some of that right.”

I can’t remember everything he said (and I am paraphrasing above), but he then told the story of the guitar that he was using. It was the one that was borrowed from Mike’s Mum by Dave Sharp when Mike was away. When Mike got back, his nice pristine guitar had been covered in stickers, had a hole sawn in the front and a pickup attached. Mike said he wasn’t too pleased until he heard how it sounded. (strums a chord – crowd cheers). He said that he knew then that was the sound he had been looking for to put to all of the songs that he and Eddie had been writing together. He then thanked Rob (who now owns the guitar) for bringing it along for Mike to use at such an auspicious occasion and he flipped the guitar over so that we could see the signatures that all the boys had done for Rob when they gave him the guitar in 1983. The Alarm then launch into Blaze of Glory with every pair of hands in the crowd held up high. As the song draws to a close, and the audience takes up the chant, Dave has a few moments of improvisation on the guitar. Ian Wilson is later heard to remark how much he enjoyed seeing Dave do this

It is over

Amidst the rapturous applause, The Alarm take centre stage, and stand there with their arms around each other. As Mike kisses each of the others in turn, I find myself hoping once again, that they are all aware of just how much they mean to us. They take a bow and then they are gone. All around me people are smiling, some are in tears, but there is a sense of euphoria filling the air. We know we have just witnessed something very special. We know how lucky we have been to be here when so many would have loved to attend, but couldn’t. I feel strangely content, almost serene. I soon realise why. It is for two reasons. I was at Brixton, and that never seemed like a fitting finale for The Alarm. We all know about the problems that brought the band to an end by now, but it has never felt right that the story of these four guys ended so acrimoniously – in a way so contrary to the spirit of The Alarm

Well tonight that ghost has been laid to rest. It has ended on a high note. It felt like a celebration rather than a funeral. It ended with the four of them standing on stage with their arms around each other. More importantly, because Brixton came out of the blue, we as fans were all taken by surprise, so we never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to the band. If the audience had known it was going to be the last gig, we would have made sure that we gave them a proper send off. We would have shown them what they mean to us. I know you can’t change the past, but tonight we have collectively re-written the history of The Alarm. When people talk of the final concert now, they will not be talking about a night of hurt and pain and loss, but rather a celebration filled with love, joy and mutual respect

The Alarm played here tonight
And they rocked the place

Leave a Reply