Mike Peters celebrated his legacy at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in a two-hour concert that defied the solo, acoustic setting with performances of Alarm anthems that yielded a number of sing- and shout-along moments, clapping accompaniment and cheers all the way around.
While the Rhyl, Wales-spawned singer-songwriter didn't take the stage until 10 p.m., the near-capacity crowd was ready to celebrate from the moment he opened with "The Stand." His powerful and fully-intact vocals conveyed the power of his uplifting lyrics and - as he would prove over and over - his rhythm guitar work was sweeping enough to propel the rockers even if the setting put the focus more on Peters' lyrics and compelling storytelling.
"Howling Wind" came next, with Peters working his acoustic guitar and blasting out harmonica. He utilized backing firepower even more dramatically a few songs later during "Absolute Reality" where he played guitar and used a foot pedal to pound out a beat on a drum while he sang.
On "Knife's Edge," some seamless technology was incorporated into his approach with some backing drum track melded into the song as he sang. While the audience clearly loved the powerful Alarm classics, Peters' nuanced set included several introspective (and clearly acoustic) tracks too. The wonderful "Dawn Chorus" that finds its emotional core in a man's lone walk through "lonely streets," and "Father to Son" with its inspired look at Peters' relationship with his father tapped into some of the artist's oft-overlooked material.
Peters closed with some of his most beloved Alarm tracks. An extended take on "Spirit of '76" provided the perfect chance for Peters to demonstrate the mastery of an arrangement; while he sang most of the song to the accompaniment of his guitar, he walked over and played the sparse spoken-word bridge as he played melodic keyboards. He closed out his 18-song set with the forceful "Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke" (blasting his harmonica like Bob Dylan on steroids) and a joyous "Blaze of Glory."
It speaks volumes that on a night when Peters didn't play "Sold Me Down the River" and "Rain in the Summertime" that few in the audience seemed to care. Peter's pacing as he combined well-known songs, rarities and intimate stories of life growing up made for a magical night.
Review and photos by Robert Kinsler