This article first appeared in Regional Music Journal on August 13, 2019.
I’ve often wondered why it is I can’t get my head around much less my heart into the music of the new millennium. I finally learned the answer when the SIGMA LXXXV TOUR 2019 made its way into the Lone Star State with ‘80s greats Gene Loves Jezebel, Modern English, and The Alarm.
Along for the ride with the SIGMA TOUR is a film crew hosted by Gareth Jones, called ON>TOUR>AGE, who travel with The Alarm taking in 40 shows in 40 cities and broadcasting behind-the-scenes looks into their lives and life on the road which streams daily to the world.
The night at Austin’s 3TEN venue and the trio of ‘80s awesomeness begin with an introduction by Jones of the always charismatic Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, who hit the stage ahead of schedule (a rarity in the live music world). GLJ plays hits like “Desire” and “The Motion of Love” and, just as he had during that decade of unchecked excess, Jay Aston proves he has the same sultry, sexy moves that brought he and twin brother, Michael Aston, legions of female fans. GLJ’s newer songs have the ’80s and ’90s post-punk sound that brought them the recognition they earned in the ‘80s and remains relevant today.
GLJ play for a brief 45-minutes when Jones returns to welcome Modern English, who walks onstage with relaxed confidence and possibly a bit of swagger. I can’t be 100% sure since this is my first time hearing Modern English live; however, I actually think their sound has improved with time and their performance remaining unchanged.
Robbie Grey is the quintessential frontman who seemingly floats about the stage with whimsical charisma singing with the same soft and seductively powerful voice. Grey uses the tambourine for a couple of songs making the typically less-fascinating percussion piece much more exciting and sexy. Modern English play their hits with youthful energy and spunk consisting of different textures but still the same synth-heavy melodies and catchy choruses.
“I Melt With You” is decidedly Modern English’s biggest hit. They save it to the very end of the show when the Austin crowd roars with exuberance singing every line and hitting every note. One of the greatest things about “I Melt With You” is that it has a happy, danceable beat, sweet lyrics and, most importantly, is absent of the angry and depressing words filling today’s airwaves. With a line like, “Dream of better lives the kind which never hates,” this song can’t be anything but timeless.
Jones again takes to the stage as part of the ‘ON>TOUR>AGE’ segment this time to stream live on The Alarm’s Facebook page and officially welcome the crowd and introduce the headliner: The Alarm.
While GLJ and Modern English come from the New Wave synth-rock genre that defines the ‘80s, The Alarm’s sound is more alternative rock. Lead singer, Mike Peters, is often compared with U2’s Bono because of the similarity in their course vocals, powerful and anthemic songs and blazing passion put into their live performances.
Peters performs with an abundance of natural energy that comes from the joy of being alive and getting another lease on life. The 59-year-old, three-time cancer survivor has seen his share of dark times and, now that he’s healthy, making up for some very precious lost time by giving it is all during each and every show, for every audience, every single time.
Peters and The Alarm switch up their playlist every night, so it’s a bit different and unique for the audience in every city. Their show is a mix of familiar tunes and refreshed classics to songs from their most recent album, ‘Signa.’
They begin the show with their newest song, “Blood Red Viral Black,” which is filled with electrifying guitar riffs and followed up with 1984’s hit, “The Stand.” With nothing but his acoustic guitar and harmonica, Peters’s solos of “Marching On” and “Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke” endear him even more to his loyal fans. Bouncing between three sets of microphones, The Alarm end with an explosion of their first pop hit, “68 Guns.” Playing for about an hour, The Alarm delivers what you’d expect from a band who has been a staple in the music industry for more than three decades.
Outside of the awesome ‘80s tunes and my own feelings of nostalgia, one of the most impressive things these three acts show is their respect for the audience’s time. There are no long transition times between sets or teasing of an off-stage DJ to the impending arrival of the artists. Instead, the bands’ crew need very little time to set up meaning the night was literally full of music with minimal down-time to make a bathroom run.
There are no curtain drops or big elaborate entrances, just amazing bands entertaining a sold-out audience of, more or less, ‘80s music veterans. If you’re lucky enough to catch the SIGMA LXXXV TOUR 2019 in your city this summer, you will witness three amazing performances and hear the incredible music that helped make the ‘80s by far the best musical decade.
Cover Photo Andy Labrow
Lisa Davis lives in Austin and is the Editorial Assistant for Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Concordia University Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Public Relations.