The Alarm with Modern English and Jay Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel
Sigma LXXXV Tour
August 23, 2019
On a pleasant late August evening, the Alarm, Modern English and Jay Ashton’s Gene Love Jezebel descended upon Huntington Long Island’s Paramount concert venue. The tour featured modern rock bands that had huge mega-hits early in their careers.
Gene Loves Jezebel was on first. The original band was formed in the early 1980s by identical twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston. Due to a falling out between the Aston brothers in 1997 and ongoing legal issues, there are currently two incarnations of the band. The version that played on this evening was led by Jay Aston. During its short set, GLJ delivered a strong performance that leaned heavily on its specialized brand of Gothic rock, pop rock, post-punk and alternative/new wave/modern rock. The band announced itself with a rockin’ version of “Twenty Hiller Hurts” from House of Dolls (Geffen Records, 1987). The powerful tune set the tone for the evening. Highlights included forceful and compelling versions of the band’s best-loved tunes: “Heartache,” “Jealous,” “The Motion of Love,” “Break The Chain” and the set ending “Desire (Come and Get It).” The band was firing on all cylinders as it roared through its portion of the evening. When the abbreviated set ended, the audience at the mid-sized venue cheered and shouted its wholehearted approval.
Modern English is a new wave/modern rock band formed in 1979 in Colchester, Essex, England Modern English is best known for its songs “I Melt with You,” “Hands Across the Sea” and “Ink and Paper.” The current band is comprised of Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals) and Stephen Walker (keyboards). Opening with “Swans On Glass,” Grey proved that his voice was in fine form from the very start of the evening. Other highlights included “16 Days” from the Mesh & Lace album (4AD, 1981); “Hands Across The Sea” from Ricochet Days (4AD, 1984); “After the Snow” from the 1984 Sire Records album of the same name; “Someone’s Calling;” “Trees;” “Moonbeam;” “Gathering Dust” and, of course, the set closer “I Melt With You”—the song that put the band on the map and gave it its biggest critical and popular exposure. The one-two punch of “Gathering Dust” and “I Melt With You” proved to be a fantastic way for the band to go out on a high note as they got the entire audience on its feet, singing along and dancing like it was 1984.
After a short intermission, Mike Peters and the current configuration of The Alarm (Peters on guitar and vocals, James Stevenson on guitar, Smiley on drums, Jules Jones Peters on keyboards, Craig Adams on bass and Mark Taylor on keyboards) appeared and delivered an amazing set peppered with its greatest hits as well as new tunes from its recently released Sigma (Twenty First Century Recording Company, 2019) CD.
The electrifying performance began with the new tune “Blood Red Viral Black.” The audience responded to the new music as though it was an old friend returning home after a long trip abroad—with open arms and unbridled enthusiasm. Mike Peters led both the band and the audience members through the remaining ten tunes of the main set by delivering the goods with strong vocals and showmanship while touching on career highlights and sing along tunes like “The Stand” and “Rescue Me” (both of which got a huge cheers from the crowd); an incendiary take on “Sold Me Down The River;” “Rain In The Summertime;” “Peace Now;” “Strength,” from the album of the same name (I.R.S. Records, 1985); the new tune “Psalm” and the anthemic main set-closer ”Spirit of ’76.”
The encores were something to behold—a selection of greatest hits that would surely go platinum if released on CD. Peters and his band killed it by ending the night with a medley of “Declaration / Marching On / Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke” (during which the audience finished many of the tunes’ verses); an irresistible version of “Sixty Eight Guns” (which caused the crowd to lose its collective mind sending them into a complete frenzy); “Unsafe Building” from Raw (I.R.S. Records, 1991) and “Two Rivers” from the 2018 Twenty First Century Recording Company album Equals.
Judging from the performances by each band, the ‘80s and early ‘90s are alive and well. Audience members left the venue with a number of GLJ, Modern English and Alarm tunes taking-up space within their brains. The music shared by these three groups clearly resonated with the fans in attendance. The crowd reacted with glee to many of the tunes and sang along while relishing in the opportunity to hear some great modern rock and turn back the clock to relive the glory days.
Photos by Christine Connallon