Written by Forsythe Jones
Last Friday(May 3, 2013), the SM Mall of Asia Arena was turned into a virtual time capsule as Modern English and The Alarm, two of the most popular British bands of their time headlined Back To The 80s, revival concert party.
DMC Philippines, one of the concert’s promoters headed by Jessie Cambosa a.k.a. Jessie Gonzales, former station manager of the now defunct WXB 102, the most popular new wave radio station during the 80s was also responsible for staging lost 80s, a similar new wave concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum back in 2008 headlined by A Flock of Seagulls, Real Life and When In Rome.
For many local music fans, the 80s remain a popular decade as other sensations of that popular decade such as the Lotus Eaters, Simple Minds, China Crisis, Cyndi Lauper and Belinda Carlisle have all had successful gigs.
Robbie Grey and Mike Peters, the driving forces behind Modern English and The Alarm respectively, may now well be into their 50s. But they still managed to draw a respectable crowd, with a good number of youngsters singing and dancing along to their mostly 30-year old music.
Some actually came in 80s inspired haircuts and the colorful wear that also defined the era. There was even one who wore a WXB 102 t-shirt. We can’t tell if there were any who actually wore shoulder pads to complete the 80s look.
But it also didn’t hurt that the headliners got able local support from DJ Jon Tupaz of Jill’s and Juan Miguel Salvador and his latest band, The Authority—both known to be associated with the 80s themselves.
Playing before the start of the concert and in between sets, Tupaz regaled the crowd with mixes of hits that included seldom-heard gems like Propaganda’s “Duet”, the Eurogliders’ “Heaven Must Be There” and the Europeans’ “The Animal Song”.
Salvador, best known for his time with 80s showband, Rage, sustained the party atmosphere that recalled clubhouse parties at Forbes and Corinthian Gardens as well as clubs like Rumors and Faces with a spirited set that include classics like The Adventures’ “Two Rivers” as well as The Cure’s “Friday, I’m In Love” and “Boys Don’t Cry”.
Finally, after quite a long wait, The Alarm finally took the stage. Formed in Wales in 1981, the band is known for its big booming rock sound that was largely compared to such contemporaries as U2 and Big Country although they are more likely to remind younger fans of bands like Keane and Snow Patrol.
The Alarm’s current line-up is composed of James Stevenson on guitars, Craig Adams on bass, Mark Taylor on keyboards, Smiley on drums and remaining founding member Mike Peters.
Performance-wise, this present incarnation of The Alarm is a razor sharp unit as they dug deeper into the band’s back catalogue in a mesmerizing set that include favorites like “Marching On”, “The Stand”, “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke”, “Spirit of ‘76”, “Sold Me Down The River”, “68 Guns” and of course their biggest hits, “Rain In The Summertime” and “Absolute Reality” which drew the loudest cheers.
With his patented gruffy, hoarse vocals that recalls both Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer of The Clash, founding member Mike Peters hardly skipped a beat and looked majestic in his customized overcoat-style jacket which he never took off until the end of their set.
Repeatedly stating how happy the band was to be given a chance to perform in Manila, Peters and the rest of The Alarm performed a first rate set that will be remembered for a long time.
We were actually a little worried when Modern English followed suit as The Alarm proved to be a tough act to follow. Formed in Essex, England back in 1979, their sound is lighter and more mainstream by comparison.
Fortunately, they have their deep back catalogue to dip their fingers including some new material that sounds just as good as their classics. As soon as ABS-CBN’s Gretchen Fullido surprisingly took to the stage and introduced them, the band launched into the propulsive intro of “Someone’s Calling”, a tune from their sensational debut album, After The Snow.
They then proceeded to a mixed set of brand new originals (yes, they still record new material) as well as other recognizable tunes like “Life In The Gladhouse”, “After The Snow” and “Tables Turning”.
Frontman Robbie Grey surprised everyone in the venue when he revealed that “Ink and Paper”, one of their most popular tunes in these parts, is a song they never actually perform live—at least until their Manila concert. He actually held a piece of paper that presumably contained its lyrics while singing the song. Even with some rough edges here and there brought mostly by Grey’s limited vocal range, the number was a still big hit with the crowd.
So were the two biggest hits of the band’s career—“Hands Across The Sea” and the song Grey acknowledges as the one everybody knows, “I Melt With You”.
“What about you in the cheap seats up there?”, Grey asked the lower box crowd as he eggs everyone to stand up and dance.
Largely predictable but ultimately a crowd-pleasing affair, the Back To The 80s new wave concert party of Modern English and The Alarm did a fine job of taking its audience back in time with well-loved songs that brought plenty of fond memories. We hope to see more of our 80s favorites soon, like maybe The Church, Midnight Oil or even the now Mike Peters-fronted Big Country?