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John Cooper Clarke - Brudenell, Leeds, 3/6/2011

  by Spencer Robertshaw

published: 26 / 6 / 2011

John Cooper Clarke - Brudenell, Leeds, 3/6/2011


Spencer Robertshaw finds Salford poet and punk icon John Cooper Clarke to be in fiery form in a night of poetry and humour at the Brudenell in Leeds

It’s a hot summer’s evening. My smart phone has saved me the embarrassment of showing up at the wrong venue, and I am looking forward to the night ahead. Tonight at the Brudenell Social Club (It doesn’t sound like a venue but it is shortlisted as one of the countries’ best small venues) I am going to see an ‘old pal’ of mine (We are poets in arms fighting the disease of sub literacy), the one and only John Cooper Clarke. He is enjoying a comeback which he richly deserves, and which is making a varied application of his talents. I get there a little early despite my driving adventure, and have the chance to sit down and reflect on what might lie ahead tonight. I have seen John Cooper Clarke (JCC) on a few occasions, and each time he pulls out new material which completely goes against some of the miswritten reviews I have come across that state he is still peddling his old work around. Granted there are a couple of JCC’s trademark jokes and poems performed, but these must be done as the audience screams requests at him, and there would be discontent if they can’t chant along with him as he spits out his classics. The background music stops and the theme tune to ‘The Saint’ is played. JCC appears on stage, striking a pose and copying the famous stick man figure which is at the start of every episode of ‘The Saint’. His famously thin frame fits in perfectly with the pose, and the audience go bonkers. Off we go with a few one-liners and comments to get him settled in and to weigh up tonight’s audience. Classics such as ‘Twat’, ‘Beasley Street/Beasley Boulevard’ and ‘Evidently Chickentown’ are a joy to hear, and fans would be disappointed if he did not perform them. With ‘Twat’ all the audience chant the lines along with him, building up to the famous end stanza (If you haven’t heard it then a quick Google will soon sort that out). Tonight’s show has some very well written funny and razor sharp poems, jokes, impressions and observations which only the mind of John Cooper Clarke could create. This includes ‘Alan Ford – Egghead’ in which JCC’s alter ego, a smooth and politically correct university lecturer steals his wife with his schmoozing conversation and engineered shadow of a beard. There is also a poem about being in jail which is delivered straight as an arrow into the audience, and which is perhaps a follow on from ‘36 Hours’, a poem which JCC wrote maybe even 36 years ago about being in jail. This new poem is an accurate description of jail life in which he comments that some of it doesn’t sound too bad but yet again some of it does (It is taken from the diary of a bi polar inmate). Observations and jokes are as funny as any top level comedian can produce, and totally take the crowd along on his unique journey through life as seen from behind his trademark dark specs. I look around the audience and see all ages and dress codes immersed in his rich baritone. They are completely in tune and having a great time travelling along the JCC highway. After about an hour and a half, his set is up and off he goes or so we think but then an announcement is made of “Do you want some more?” This is a complete surprise to me because JCC hardly ever does encores. He is really giving it a good go tonight. We go out with the aforementioned ‘Evidently Chickentown’, and a massive cheer and applause fill the room – Job Well Done. His comeback is just going from strength to strength, as he is both guest DJ-ing on Radio 6 and voicing a new advertising campaign for Domino's Pizzas. He is doing well and he deserves it. In looking at his latest achievements, I don’t know where he gets the energy from, as he is travelling around Europe on this latest tour. After the show I join JCC in his dressing room. He is holding court with fans and friends alike and the show still goes on. He is very warm, passionate, modest and friendly like a favourite uncle or old friend would be, and from my observations his guests are drawn to him as his personality bodes for nothing else. We record a video of him serenading my daughter for her birthday, and I ask him a question which I think is relevant to this successful comeback. SR: John, when will we see the new book? We have been chatting about it for some time and is it getting there? JCC: Yes, Spencer. It is going to be within a year and probably this year. I have so much new stuff that it is going to be coming out soon. JCC has a lot of new material and it is brilliant. Fans and savvy readers alike are waiting for this. Every time a talented individual gets into John Cooper Clarke it seems to spark them off on their own journey using him as their point of reference. Just look at Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, and you see what I mean. A revolution is about to start, and ‘The Bard of Salford’ is at the helm.

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John Cooper Clarke - Brudenell, Leeds, 3/6/2011

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