Mike Peters will take a break from his current tour with Big Country to do a special solo acoustic show on Aug. 19 as part of Michael “Eppy” Epstein’s ongoing concert series at Page One in Glen Cove.
Peters says he will play songs from throughout his career, as the lead singer of The Alarm, as a solo artist, and even as the pretend band The Poppy Fields, which he used to prove how ageist the music industry can be.
He will also take some time to explain his Love Hope Strength charity, which helps get concertgoers registered to become bone marrow donors and has already helped 600 cancer patients find lifesaving matches.
“It’s quite a journey all its own,” says Peters, calling from the road somewhere in upstate New York. “The show is as much about the audience as it is about me. It’s a shared experience. I’ll be taking their lead as well. That makes it really interesting for me.”
The Alarm enjoyed a lot of success on Long Island early on, back in the days of “Spirit of ‘76” and “Rain in the Summertime.” Do you have memories of playing here?
We played at My Father’s Place in 1983, when we were first starting to make an impression on America. We’d only ever played one show in New York State and that was with U2 on Pier 54, and a lot of people who saw us there were from Long Island [because of WLIR]. So when we came to My Father’s Place on our own, it was like a little homecoming for us there. That show got recorded and some of those songs ended up as B-sides from some of our early records.
We’ve got a really affinity for Long Island, and we’ve had some great shows at Stony Brook and at Jones Beach with Bob Dylan. That was a real seminal night for the band. Life has taken its toll on the lineup of the band and things have changed. But I’ve always had a great reception on Long Island, as a solo performer, or even now with Big Country. People have always stood behind the music I’ve made. I’ve been grateful for that. I’m so grateful for an audience who still wants to hear new things.
Have your feelings toward your older songs changed over the years?
I like changing some of the older songs up because I think some of them have a lot more relevance today than when they were written. A song like ‘Strength’ that was written in 1985, I didn’t know why I wrote, ‘Who will be the life blood coursing through my veins?’ but now I know why. That informs the song a lot more.
I think The Alarm songs are better now because they’ve lived in their clothing a long time. They’ve lived in their skin, and there’s a lot to be discovered. The Alarm were a band that had a big look in the ‘80s, with the hair and the clothes, and that was important to help us stand out in the crowd, but I think it got in the way of the music a little bit. When I look back, I think that was obscuring some of the depth in the music that we’re now able to reveal by stripping them back to just bare acoustic songs.
How is your health right now?
I have to have chemotherapy every two months to maintain the balance of life, which is a bit of an imposition. But I’m really lucky that I’ve had a good reaction to the drugs. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never lost my hair, which is important if you want to be a rock and roller in my book. (Laughs.)
Well for you, especially. Your hair was part of your fame!
Exactly! I’m lucky. I had a bit of a bad spell when I was on the last Alarm tour in March in Britain. I was a few seconds away from having to cancel everything, but luckily the numbers came in on the right side of the limit, and I’m still here. I found out some great news a few weeks ago that there’s a new drug coming down the pipeline that might negate the need to have chemotherapy in the future. I might just have to take an oral tablet to keep the equilibrium and keep the leukemia in check. Things are changing all the time.
That’s one of the things we try to do with the charity, with Love Hope Strength, is to try to break down the myth. When you walk into a doctor’s office and they tell you, ‘You have cancer.’ It’s not instantly a death sentence. That’s what sends people over the edge. We’re trying to show people you can live a normal life. You can keep going as you are. Every day, the odds get better.
Mike Peters plays Page One, 90 School St., Glen Cove, 516-676-2800, at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19. Tickets are $35 through myfathersplace.com.