Tuesday, 31 January 2012

John Cooper Clarke @ The Hop Review

John Cooper Clarke
The Hop, Wakefield
19th October, 2011 *

*Apologies for the lateness here - this has just been discovered, lost, in a folder of a subfolder on a hardrive in a cupboard.

A slightly oddly arranged evening, with the support bands playing downstairs at The Hop and John Cooper Clarke next door at Fanny & Barcadi's (due to capacity issues at The Hop). But an interesting one too.

Post War Glamour Girls were first up. Fresh from enjoying their fantastic single 'Splitting Pearls' I was very keen to check them out live. The first surprise was the age of this lot; baritone Nick Cave groaning and beautiful, powerful female backing

had led me to the conclusion they were, shall we say mature? Yes, mature. Surprisingly then they are all rather youthful and fresh faced, which for anyone who hasn’t heard them, will be of no interest. A young band? Good Lord!

But for me, it made me love them even more. They are so different from what I now see to be their peers and it was great to see a big crowd down there for them. Sinister, crawling novellas and impressive waves of sound, considering they are a pretty traditional 4-piece. I want more!

John Cooper Clarke appeared on stage with just a mic, a lamp and a table of gin. Well, that and his book of poetry. I was intrigued to see what he would be like. I know about him, but little of him. Like fellow Mancs Peter Hook and Mark E Smith he was around at the birth of punk at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. But would he be living off the past like Hooky or still pushing an individual furrow like Smith? As it happens; neither. It's hard to say since I wasn’t even alive back then, but I get the feeling that he is probably just STILL DOING THE SAME SET as he was 40 years ago.

He doesn’t wallow in the past by telling old stories. He is, surprisingly, a gag man, rapid fire 1 liners. Some are funny, no denying, even against my better judgement.

Some are very suspect. We are perilously close to actually collapsing the universe as it seems JCC is determined to return us to a WMC in the 1970's. I feel uneasy as one section starts with 'Bloody Gypo's eh?' to riotous applause. There are bits about Dyslexics. I’m not offended, it just seems real old skool. But the crowd, sycophantic to the core lap it up. It's funny to see some of them mouthing the words of his punk poetry to utter perfection.

Act aside, JCC is amiable though slightly wobbly on his feet. That'll be the endlessly flowing gin then. There's a warmth, and a slight absent-mindedness too that makes him seem quite sweet. Not the fiery, terrifying proposition I had expected and seemingly, not a cynical exercise in raking the past for some of that filthy lucre; more the wheeling out of an artifact, perfectly preserved. The museum piece rallies angrily and joyously for one more night.

And with the headliner out of the way, we head back to The Hop for the main support. Skint & Demoralised are an entity I have not come across for a long time. It's been an interesting journey over the last few years for Matt Abbott and one which I have followed from a distance. Tonight is the first time since the dual release of S&D albums 1 and 2 last month that I have seen the new lineup and they instantly impress. The spoken word stuff is now predominantly left to a billing of 'Matt Abbott' only. The light, 'Indie-Streets' vibe also seems to have been left behind. Tonight S&D are a muscular force of pent up energy, a raucous and shredding performance of character and passion. I enjoyed the fact they felt like a 'real' band, not a singer/songwriter and some brought in backing band. The tight stage helped, all 5 members battling for room and bouncing around one another.

It all feels like a much more appropriate setting for the kind of scenario's Matt writes about and he seemed to revel in it, giving much more of a engaging 'front man' performance. With the band already working on demos for a 3rd album, it really feels like they are riding a wave and on tonight's performance I hope they keep on riding it for a long time to come.

Dean Freeman

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