Dr.John Cooper Clarke – Liverpool Guild of Students 11th June 2016 – Live Review

Written by Sean Diamond
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Up until now the live experience of Salford’s official bard has eluded me for thirty-one years, although why I’m not quite sure.

Something to do with the weather perhaps. Arriving into the venue to an abundance of Motown classics and setting eyes upon the ‘Dr. John Cooper Clarke’s stage backdrop did fill me with a fair amount of excitement, the exquisitely uncomfortable leather padded plastic seating a minor blight upon a chilled out, refreshingly intimate atmosphere.

Opening the ceremonies was Mike Garry, a Mancunian poet with some amusing stories about working as a teacher and librarian in a past life, as well as a surprisingly poignant poem dealing with Bernard Manning’s legendary (and some might say infamous)Embassy Night Club. Next up we got The Fast Show’s Simon Day as Yorkshire poet Geoffrey Allerton, a gloriously surreal mash-up of gentle Northern observational humour and hilariously non-pc one-liners. Highlights of this set included a poem concerning the virtues of true love (“I didn’t even mind when you wiped your arse on my Grayson Perry tea towel”), a piece on Yorkshire complete with a reference to one of the county’s most famous sons ‘Sir’ Jimmy Savile, and a poem by the name of ‘England’ accusing (amongst several other things) Jamie Vardy of heroin dealing. Well worth a view, both of these acts come highly recommended.

“If Jesus was Jewish then why did he have a Spanish name?”

One of life’s great mysteries, succinctly pondered by the great JCC. The man who tore English Poetry a new one forever arrives on stage looking typically uber cool; oversized shades, an impossibly skinny fitted black suit, a fetching mauve tie , a yellow shirt, and jet black shoulder-length hair. Immaculate as ever. He’s The Ramones of poetry both aesthetically and linguistically, his gravelly, monotonous vowels and snappy dress sense spawned an entire scene of ‘Ranting’ poets, a politically charged yet highly humorous movement that helped make poetry cool again. A one-time member of this scene, the late, great NME Journalist Steven ‘Seething’ Wells, considered Clarke’s ‘Beasley Street’ “the greatest piece of poetry in the history of the English language.” It’s certainly a viewpoint that’s hard to dispute, tonight’s astonishingly rapid-fire rendition seems to hammer this point home in typically brutal fashion. A devastating critique of urban decay in Britain, its visceral imagery of a baby dying in a box, bedsits full of accidents and fleas, dead men’s overcoats, rats with rickets and a vengeful man with a Fu Manchu moustache as powerful, hard-hitting and (unfortunately) relevant to the 21st century as its release date of 1980. Great stuff.

More ‘hits’ come in the form of ‘Evidently Chickentown’, the Sopranos-approved piece which makes the most inventive use of the adjective ‘fucking’ of all time, plus the Arctic Minstrels favourite ‘I Wanna Be Yours.’ Clarke dedicates this piece to Alex Turner, thanking his patronage of the poem for “taking me around the world and to the top of the pop charts all over again.” Personally I think ‘Twat’ would have been a far more appropriate tribute, although if it opens some fresh-faced indie kids ears up to the majesty of JCC then perhaps there’s something to be said for it, especially if it succeeds in showing up Turner for the cloth-eared chancer he so blatantly is. Hey ho.

There are some faults with the show. Thirty quid for a ticket does seem a little steep for a seventy-minute performance, especially coming from an alleged ‘people’s poet’ like Mr Cooper Clarke. There are a few aimless rambling narratives in between the poems which could have done with some fleshing out or editing, including a long-winded segment on the virtues of marriage acting as an introduction to ‘I’ve Fallen in Love with My Wife.’ More poetry, less pondering would have been nice, especially from a performer with a back catalogue as solid as JCC’s. That said, it’s an engaging evening that holds your attention throughout in spite of the undeniable flaws, and a great way to channel your inner poet. If you’re into that sort of thing, of course.

Read 4750 times Last modified on Saturday, 13 February 2021 15:39
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Sean Diamond

Sean Diamond

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