Julian Cope - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Julian Cope - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2012-02-01

I could describe Julian David Cope as a national treasure, yet that phrase comes loaded with images of safe, antiquated celebrities and the line-up for a Royal Variety Performance. I could describe him as a living legend, yet legend implies something traditional and, within musical circles, someone whose best days are behind them.

Neither tag comes close to giving self-proclaimed saint and pragmatic motherfucker Julian Cope his dues. Historian, musician, novelist and raconteur, the Arch-Drude of Staffordshire remains exciting by simply continuing to be himself.

Before our heathen hero took to the stage, it was down to Black Sheep associate and long-time Cope-collaborator Holy McGrail to prepare our expectant ears.

Dressed in biker leathers and armed with a mixing-desk, some records, and a knack for harnessing experimental electronics, McGrail resembled the world's weirdest wedding DJ. The heavy, oppressive drones of Sunn0))) made their influence felt during the early portion of the set, yet the sound evolved and changed over the course of its hour duration. It was an intense yet strangely euphoric set that seamlessly morphed from Doors samples and drones to the hazy thud of some strange, subterranean rave.

Dressed in his usual leathers, save for a pair of snug-fitting jogging bottoms, Julian Cope was every bit the psychedelic shaman, musical eccentric and rock ‘n’ roll agitator, one part Iggy Pop, one part psychedelicised college lecturer with a penchant for biker gear. In shades and sporting a particularly impressive beard, Cope opened with ‘I’m Living in the Room They Found Saddam in’. Outspoken, thoughtful and politicised, Cope draws his unique strand of rock ‘n’ roll from places very few musicians seem to tread.  

Teardrop Explodes track ‘The Culture Bunker’ got an early outing while bona fide hit ‘Treason’ received the solo treatment; both were rapturously received and slid rather effortlessly into the set in their stripped-down, raw states. The set spanned much of Cope’s career with the likes of ‘Double Vegetation’ and ‘Sunspots’ sitting comfortably next to more recent material. Cope was engaging and chatty between songs and regaled the crowd with some uniquely Cope-esque anecdotes.

We’re told about a set of drinking songs inspired by a two-decade period of alcoholic abstinence that came to an abrupt end following a trip to an Armenian cave and an encounter with some mulberry vodka. Not that Cope was exactly sober during this alcohol-free period, as it coincided with his introduction to the mind-altering properties of LSD (only £2 a go in Liverpool during the 80s apparently). Every tale is told with a jovial comradery and tonnes of self-effacing humour.

Material from his last few albums sounded absolutely fantastic, an artist still very much in assent. A stripped-back ‘Psychedelic Revolution’ provided one of the night's many rallying calls as Cope sang, “If you’re a greed head/ you’re going down/ If you’re a fat cat/ you’re going down”. At one point Cope talked about his as yet unpublished historical tome, The Lives of the Prophets (how brilliant is that going to be?), and how his investigations into some often tyrannical prophets inspired the concise, what-the-fuck folk song, ‘Cromwell in Ireland’.

An astoundingly brilliant performance, made all the more impressive for how casual Cope made the whole thing look. Everything is played on a selection of acoustic guitars, only very occasionally indulging in a little well-placed distortion. Between anecdotes we heard the sparse melancholy of ‘Soul Desert’, the anti-automobile anthem ‘Autogeddon Blues’, and charmingly titled, tounge-in-cheek ballad, ‘Cunts Can Fuck Off’ (a deliberately crude name and lyric, devised to annoy some particularly sensitive Americans).  

All this and we were still treated to a startlingly beautiful rendition of ‘Pristeen’ and the breezy pop-perfection of ‘The Greatestness & Perfection of Love’. Laid bare, it became even more apparent that Cope is a songwriter of the highest calibre (a "professional", as he jokingly called himself), with the ability to move, amuse, educate and entertain.

A triumphant Cope returned for a short but satisfying encore that began with an amusing poem about the culture of band reunions and culminated in a mass sing-along to the ever-brilliant ‘Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed’. The revolution is underway brothers and sisters, and Cope is leading the way. If you weren’t before, you can now consider yourself well and truly psychedelicised. 

Comments (6)

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Cool. Peggy Suicide is such a brilliant album. The Live 1991 is also excellent. I think I'll buy a holiday unit adjacent to the Brudenell Social Club Andy !

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Good plan! I feel like I practically live there sometimes, haha.

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Peggy Suicide is brilliant! As is Jehovakill, Black Sheep, You Gotta Problem and Psychedelic Revolution. Loads of great stuff!

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Not heard Live 1991, will investigate

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If you can't find Live Japan 1991, I can Dropbox it for you.

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Thanks

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