The Alarm, Gene Loves Jezebel
& Modern English
By Sarah Sernaker, August 29, 2019
Almost 30 years ago Mike Peters from the Alarm, got tired of the band drama and walked off the stage at a live show, in front of his shocked band members and audience. After hearing that story, and then hearing later about how they were touring with Modern English, I knew I had to go catch them in Asbury. I live a few hours away, yet it was an opportunity that doesn’t come around often. I have been to Asbury Park, a beautiful place to visit in the Summertime. Also, a good concert was my excuse to go back and explore a place made famous by Bruce Springsteen, and where Billy Joel spent some weekends, according to the song, “Allentown.”
From our hotel, the Magestic, we walked 20 minutes to the venue, and were 3rd in line, pretty well guaranteed the front row. The first band was Gene Loves Jezebel, a band whose popular songs from the 80s to now included, “Heart Ache,” “Desire,” “Break the Chain,” and more. Lead singer, Jay Aston, was acrobatic in his enthusiastic delivery of the tunes. I felt like I was seeing a cross between Aerosmith and The Fixx. They truly were one of the best opening bands I have ever seen, with energy, and in how they click as a group.
The blend of these three bands in one night was amazing. The song- crafting and virtuosity stood out. The drummer in the Alarm, Steve Barnard, could easily sub for Neil Peart if asked. His power and precision was awesome. The guitarist, James Stevenson, who played for both the Alarm and Gene Loves Jezebel, currently has a solo CD out, which I bought and have been enjoying ever since. It has somewhat of a Pink Floyd, David Gilmour vibe, but with female backup singers reminiscent of Steely Dan’s song, “Babylon Sisters.”
Modern English put on a great show. The lead singer and the bassist came out in sharkskin suits. Robbie Grey and Michael Conroy were not dressed like rockers. Robbie Grey is a ham, and he was enigmatic. Before he began their hit song, “I’ll Melt with You,” he said, “Now here is the song you all came to hear,” and the crowd erupted. For me, the rest of the songs were also great. Stephen Walker played keyboard with unfolding melodies and the style that bends the ear, whenever you hear their songs and know it's them. It is the thumbprint of Modern English.
Of all the bands, I was most familiar with the Alarm. “68 Guns,” “Sold Me Down the River,” and “Spirit of 76” were all songs popular in my youth. Hearing those tunes live was incredible. Mike Peters has an energy and spirit that's engaging, and a unique, polished stage presence.
If you ever have the chance to see bands from back when you were in school, then just jump in your car and travel miles away from the daily grind. You’ll be renewed and will enjoy not only the music that made you feel thingsyou connected to, yet you'll be up-close to the crisp musicianship and the fact that, as I do know about myself, you just never grow up and don’t have to. This concert was a blast, the audience was up and dancing, and all three bands put on a great show.
Sarah Sernaker, Writer
Sarah Sernaker is a NY based comedic and travel writer. She has written about concerts, festivals, and more. You can usually find her creatively engaged in DIY home projects, cooking projects, traveling, or enjoying a concert.