Julian Cope has been a lot of things in his
time: post-punk Liverpool cult act, bona fide pop star, introverted
singer-songwriter, leather-trousered rock god. And that only
takes us up to 1987! In more recent years, however, he has
taken to embracing heavy rock and (as he freely admits) all
the cliché that entails, to the bemusement of some of his older
fans. Initially, there was good reason to doubt. Despite every
time Julian does a Raw Power nugget like Get
Off Your Pretty Face (from his early forays into this genre
with his 'ambient metal' band, Brain Donor) there is some
endless dirge that would induce those who think heavy metal
was music made by the brain dead for the brain dead to quickly
reach for the skip button.
The past couple of years, however, have seen Cope marrying
this style to his more melodic leanings with no small degree
of success. It was in this guise that Julian showed up on his
latest tour. Playing bass in a three piece augmented by Doggen
(who can only be described as what used to be called an 'axe
hero') and Mr E (on 'the fucking drums'), the bare chested,
German cap wearing Cope turned in a vintage performance in
England's third city. Opening with several numbers from his
recent tribute album to the female of the species, Dark
this band rocked, with Julian sounding in great voice on Nothing
To Lose Except My Mind, and throwing in some great Iggy-style
yelps on She's Gotta Ring On Her Finger.
Cope and Doggen rawk out!
Julian then proceeded to treat us to delights from all periods
of his career, including the early Teardrop Explodes fave Read
It In Books (now sounding like some rock anthem with wailing
guitar solos - something which those of us who remember it
as a great pop song with a choppy little organ would not have
thought possible all those years ago!). There was also a superb
assault on the Peggy Suicide freak-out that is Hanging
Out & Hung Up On The Line, and a shivers-down-yer-back
version of Highway To The Sun from his mid-90s Twenty
We were then treated to a solo section, the highlight of which
was probably that old sing-along classic, Robert Mitchum.
Cope was then joined onstage for a great I'm Your Daddy by
the wonderfully named Holy McGrail on synth, which basically
consisted of McGrail providing some Silver Machine-like noises
for backing. After a couple more numbers, Julian H Cope and Paranormal
In The West Country, that were effectively performed accapella,
the band re-emerged for a glorious finale that took in Get
Off Your Pretty Face, World Shut Your Mouth (where
the crowd went MENTAL!), and Reynard The Fox, whereupon
Julian launched into an angry tirade against religion and,
alas, resorted to cutting himself with his mic stand. Again.
Otherwise, this was a gig to savour. Because this was our greatest performer at his best, singing, chatting, ranting, joking. It really doesn't get much better than this…
Julian Cope ... triumphant!