When the man in the camouflage jacket last visited Chicago to play a night of his rousing Alarm standards, Mike Peters kicked up dust in a one man show at the Old Town School of Folk Music with his acoustic guitar and a kick drum. He’s returning with reinforcements. The Alarm performs in full formation on Friday at Skokie’s Backlot Bash and on Monday at City Winery.
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Welsh band’s third studio album “Eye of the Hurricane,” including the beatific single “Rain in the Summertime” and rowdy rocker “Rescue Me.” Earlier ‘80s anthems include the spiky, acoustic-punk energy of “Marching On,” the strident “Sixty Eight Guns,” the nostalgic “Spirit of ‘76” and the pleading “Strength.”
Although Peters is the last man standing from the group’s original line-up, his reconstituted Alarm, featuring former members of Generation X and the Mescaleros, has scored high marks by delivering electrifying concerts that harness the group’s original blueprint. The band’s sound and presence fuse the Clash and the Sex Pistols, with doses of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie’s all-for-one, one-for-all populism. The current Alarm have released albums of spirited songs including 2006’s “Under Attack.”
In recent years, Peters has gained notice for his Love Hope Strength Foundation. A lymphoma and leukemia survivor, Peters has used his foundation to grow an international match list of potential bone marrow donors through registry at concerts by the Alarm and other touring acts including Foo Fighters. Revealing the new Alarm album “Blood Red” coincided with Peters’ recent relapse of leukemia and his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis. “It gave me an opportunity to really pour my emotions into the music,” said Peters in an interview for an Alarm podcast. “[I hadn’t] had that amount of conviction for a long time.” Both Peters and his wife have completed treatment, allowing for an ambitious touring schedule.
Following a hiatus after 1991’s “Raw” album, Peters released a new Alarm single in 2004 under pseudonym The Poppy Fields and a false band identity as scrappy young punks. After “45 RPM” became a hit in the UK, Peters revealed the ruse and spoke against ageism in the music industry. The incident became the subject of 2012 comedy film “Vinyl.”
July saw the limited but well-received theatrical release for documentary film “Man in the Camo Jacket.” The film traces Peters’ rise to fame with the Alarm, bouts with deadly cancer, and his inspiring return while rallying beloved musicians to help save the lives of cancer patients around the world.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.