Found under a pool table some time in the nineteen eighties, no one knows where this confused genius really comes from- some say space, some say a suburb in Salford...all they really know is that thei...[more]
The Brudenell Social Club, Friday 21 September 2012
There isn't a support act as such but before chief druid Mr Julian Cope starts his set tonight we get a member of the Black Sheep, Cope's backing band, performing a drum solo on stage while another member films it on a phone. While other crowds would be disappointed to get a ten-minute improvised drum piece in place of a proper band, Cope's audience seem to be grinning and laughing; after all, what else would we expect from the eccentric cultural activist?
On stage, Cope is dressed in his regulation leathers, complete with cap and shades but any sense of rock-star arrogance evaporates when he starts talking. Cope retains the relaxed demeanour of a man clearly loving his work; talking to the crowd about his new book on the Prophets, the time when Al Jourgensen from Ministry came round for a séance and his healthy rivalry with Ian McCulloch (whose image, complete with matching shades, is right next to the stage thanks to an upcoming gig). Cope seems more at home here at the Brudenell than the arenas McCulloch is no doubt more accustomed to. He jokes that he wears his (prescription) shades all the time so we can't see the 'real him', but Cope's performance is about as intimate as they come.
Armed with his acoustic, Cope delivers a career-spanning set which, despite missing a few personal favourites, ('Upwards at 45 Degrees' and 'Pristine') manages to cover most bases. So we get protest songs, folk songs, death marches and a song set on Ilkley Moor (the brilliant 'Raving on the Moor' from his latest LP, Psychedelic Revolution). Flitting between guitar and mellotron, Cope delivers classics such as the apocalyptic 'Autogeddon Blues', the delicately beautiful 'Soul Desert' and The Teardrop Explodes fan favourite 'The Great Dominions'. To Cope, rock 'n' roll comes naturally as he performs his set with the casual calm of a man playing a few songs to his friends.
Occasionally, you're left wondering what the set would be like with the full Black Sheep line-up behind him, especially when a few members join him for a riotous 'Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed' (the crowd gleefully joining in on the chorus). The stripped-down set does manage to emphasise the strength of the songs, however. 'Double Vegetation' sounds untouchable and when Cope closes the night with 'Sunspots' you know you're in the presence of a great songwriter.
The Julian Cope live experience was never going to be a polished affair and Cope even admits that he has had to trim the set slightly as he's been talking too much. It's these elements, however, which make Cope such a vital performer; Cope couldn't 'play ball' if he wanted to and remains one of rock music's true outsiders. A real revolutionary man.