Arts & Leisure

By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Modern English, The Alarm: They came too late

Posted on May 07, 2013

Concert Review
Back to the ’80s: New Wave Concert Party
Featuring Modern English and The Alarm
May 3, 9 p.m.
SM Arena

WITH THE advent of K-pop, J-pop, hip-hop, indie rock, and even rap, New Wave seems like the music genre of an era long forgotten. But about a thousand 30- and 40-something flocked to the SM Arena last Friday to reminisce and feast on New Wave, the pop/rock music meshed with punk which became popular in late-1970s to the mid-’80s.

New Wave music artists: Mike Peters and The Alarm -- Cecile Santillan-Visto
The Alarm/Modern English double-header may have been staged more than 20 years too late but the enthusiasm of the crowd that grew up with the music of A-Ha, Tears for Fears, Go-Gos and even The Cure indicated that it was, at least, better late than never.

Modern English front man Robbie Grey said in the band’s 34 years, the Manila concert was their first Asian show.

The long wait was worth it for the beer-drinking die-hards, who sang to their songs until the concert ended past 1 in the morning.

Local 1980s icon Juan Miguel Salvador opened the show with “Two Rivers,” followed by The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” and “Be Near Me” by ABC. Mr. Salvador still has his ’80s oomph although with less hair (he shed his mane from his Rage band days a long time ago) and a slightly cracked voice. He and his Authority Band rounded up their set with “Talkin’ In Your Sleep,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Whisper To A Scream.”

Then DJ Jon Tupas took the stage to play, as expected, ’80s music, to pump up the crowd. But the audience could listen to such hits as Billy Joel’s “Sometimes a Fantasy” and “Head Over Heels” for only so long, and became restless by 10 p.m. Only then did The Alarm come to out to play.

Mike Peters immediately showed his guitar prowess in “Marching On,” and immediately followed it up with “Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke.” The crowd warmed up to the band by “The Stand,” purportedly its biggest US hit and were raising their beer-filled paper cups by the time the band tackled the bluesy “Down the Road.”

The beat picked up with “Sold Me Down the River,” only to slow down again with “Rain in the Summertime,” which I think was The Alarm’s best song of the night. The audience in front did not mind getting wet after Mr. Peters splashed them with two bottles full of water.

Mr. Peters interacted with the audience and rounded the Arena while playing his guitar and harmonica. The band also showed a video of its hometown in North Wales while singing “Spirit of ’76.”

Its smash hits “Absolute Reality,” “68 Guns,” and “Rescue Me” were sung one after the other before The Alarm turned over the stage to the next act.

By then it was nearly 11:30 p.m. and instead of Modern English, Mr. Tupas returned to play a few more ’80s staples, obviously to promote his bar in Taguig.

At nearly midnight, Modern English finally stepped into the limelight.

Despite the pressure to immediately sing their ’80s hits, the band opted to sing new songs, kicking off with “Someone’s Calling” and “After the Snow.”

It was a hot and humid evening and after removing his coat, Mr. Grey urged the crowd to bounce up and down with him as he sang “Tables Turning” and “Swans on Glass.” In “Black Houses” and “Life in the Gladhouse,” Mr. Grey tried to show some moves but appeared more like an epileptic patient throwing a fit. Way awkward and uncool.

But he redeemed himself with “Come Out of Your Hole,” and “Ink and Paper,” which Mr. Grey said the band had never sang live. “So you are very lucky,” he told the Pinoy audience, who were gracious and got up on their feet.

This was followed by “Moonbeam” and “Melt With You,” definitely the most-awaited song. Modern English did an acoustic version of “Melt With You” for its encore.

The SM Arena was barely a quarter full with about four sections of the Upper and Lower Boxes closed. The bleachers were virtually empty. The stage was moved to the middle when it’s usually at the edge. Maybe the concert was indeed too late to attract a throng of ’80s Baby Boomers, who definitely now have the concert spending power. New Wave may really be a thing of the past best locked in the memories of those who can relate.