The Alarm bring their Sigma LXXXV tour to Phoenix on Wednesday, July 31, ready to show U.S. audiences why their latest release flew up the U.K. National Album Chart just weeks after its late June release.
And like a tagline from an alien-invasion movie: They are not alone.
The band that formed in Wales in 1981 are touring with a couple of acts that solidified their popularity that same decade – Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel.
In those early years, The Alarm had hair as high and shirts as ruffled as many of their New Wave peers, but their pervasive rock edge allowed them to fit in a few different boxes.
The band evolved from The Toilets, a '70s punk group The Alarm’s lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Peters put together, and always have blended lyrics that boast hope-amidst-despair messages atop a foundation of driving, anthemic rock 'n' roll. Alarm classics like “Sixty Eight Guns,” “The Stand,” and “Strength” are not only catchy but also timelessly relevant.
Nearly 40 years later, that same style and spirit prevail on Sigma, their newest offering. On its rapid appeal, Peters cites the personal scenarios that were part of its development.
“A lot of real-life experience went into the creation,” he tells us. “I relapsed from leukemia, and my wife, Jules, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time. You couldn’t write the script, but we resolved to come through the experience with our spirit and zest for life intact. I think the connection lies in the fact that the record is built out of a very human drama that has had a positive outcome.”
Songs like “Blood Red Viral Black” and “The White Count” are examinations of the Peters’ medical adversity, but true to the band's style, they’re delivered with enough metaphor and abstraction to be universally relatable.
There was initially a different vision for this record, but Peters pondered a while before deciding on the best approach. “It was originally going to be a double album entitled Blood Red Viral Black, but I thought with the attention span of the world being what it is these days that people would have time to listen to the whole thing, so I deliberately set out releasing the music in two stages as Equals last year and Sigma now on 2019.”
He feels good about moving in that direction. “I think the fact that Sigma is a sequel to Equals has deepened the connection to the music,” he says.
Peters, who is the current lineup’s only original member, is not only addressing his multiple-round battle with cancer through creating and performing music. A three-time cancer survivor, he founded the Love Hope Strength Foundation in 2007 with James Chippendale, a fellow cancer survivor and music business executive.
Their mission, “saving lives one concert a time,” includes conducting bone marrow donor drives at concerts worldwide. For Peters, helping others has helped him in his fight. “Being involved with Love Hope Strength and seeing and hearing life’s miracles happening every day in other peoples’ lives who you might not always hear about is incredibly inspiring. It certainly drives me forward.”
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If you’re heading to the show, you’ll catch a mix of tunes from the band’s lengthy career. “All the iconic songs The Alarm is known for will be played,” Peters says. “We always try and change the set list nightly, so it’s special for each city. The new material from Equals and Sigma has refreshed our classics, so fans are going to see The Alarm at our very best.”
Another thing about those fans? They’re a massive part of what propels Peters and crew.
“The energy that comes back from the fans keeps us going. Our success is longevity, and having a long history with our fans."
The Alarm. With Modern English and Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, at Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street; celebritytheatre.com. Tickets are $35 to $70.