A triple bill of British rock hit the Neighborhood Theatre Tuesday evening as The Sigma Tour rolled into Charlotte. The tour is being headlined by The Alarm who is on the road in support of their latest record “Sigma” along with openers Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel. This was a fantastic opportunity to catch three bands whose music I love but have never seen perform live and they did not disappoint.
The evening got started right on time with Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel hitting the stage. The original Gene Loves Jezebel was formed back in the 90’s by twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston. At that time they lit up the charts and clubs with a string of hits. This version of the band of course features Jay Aston on vocals and guitar along with James Stevenson, Pete Rizzo, and Chris Bell. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the band quickly won over the audience with Jay Aston leading the way. Aston was a terrific front man with a great stage presence and their allotted thirty minute slot flew by.
Next up to bat was the new wave, post-punk vibe of Modern English. Led by lead singer Robbie Grey, the band still sounds amazing after all these years. Grey did a good job getting the crowd energized and interacted with them every chance he got. Their set was a nice mix of rockers and dance-able, keyboard heavy tunes and spanned the scope of their career including songs from their latest album, the 2016 release “Take Me to the Trees.” Of course, they saved their biggest hit for last, taking us back to 1982 with their biggest US hit “I Melt With You” from the “After The Show” album. Grey let the crowd take over the vocals on the chorus and at the end of the tune, they picked up the tempo playing it faster and faster and faster still. The crowd ate it up and everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time.
The break between bands was very short only five or ten minutes which was a nice change of pace from most shows and really served to keep the vibe upbeat throughout the night. Last but certainly not least, it was finally time for The Alarm. The band’s roots trace back to their very early punk days when they were known as The Toilets before taking a more rock and alternative rock approach as The Alarm. Led by lead vocalist Mike Peters, the band has gone through some changes over the years but still retains a strong following that goes back to their “Sixty-Eight Guns” days. The band has been touring all summer to support their “Sigma” album release, which is already climbing the UK charts. The band opened with a track off of the new record, the single which features Billy Duffy of The Cult “Blood Red Viral Black.” It was a great choice as an opening song and quickly set the tone of the evening. Right there and then I knew that we were about to witness something special and unique. Peters is a consummate showman who interacted with the fans, pointing, clapping, and giving the peace sign. At one point, he even came down into the crowd to sing and get up close and personal with everyone who came out to the show as tons of selfies were being snapped and viral videos were going live. His vocals sounded spot on, filling the theatre with passion and emotion. I especially loved the bluesy vibe when he pulled out the harmonica and went to town on his acoustic/electric guitar. Peters took time to chat between songs and talked for a bit about his charity www.lovehopestrength.org which hosts bone marrow drives to help find donors for those suffering from blood cancer. It was an incredible night as we grooved to “Sold Me Down the River” and lit up the theatre with our cell phones for “Beautiful.” Nobody wanted it to end and The Alarm obliged by returning for a two song encore to cap off the evening.
This was a show that really brought a little something for everyone and far exceeded my expectations. If you get the chance to check out any of these amazing bands live, don’t think about it, just do it!
The Alarm Set List:
Blood Red Viral Black
Sold Me Down the River
Rain in the Summertime
Spirit of 76
Marching On/Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke/Sixty Eight Guns
We would like to thank Ken Phillips of Ken Phillips Publicity Group, Inc. for the credentials to review the show.