Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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Tonight we’re in the delightful and friendly comedy venue that is The Glee Birmingham to see an artist with who own true unique style. This dude does it HIS way. Singer-songwriter, musician, author, antiquarian – his take on life is truly unique, his music and lyrics as eloquent as they are sartorial – his spoken word crazy, mad and bang on the money in the same sentence. Welcome to the world of the Archdruid himself – Julian H. Cope.

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Tonight it’s seated; we’re told to snuggle up to the person nearest so everyone can get a seat, as it’s pretty much sold out. A little before 8pm, the lights go down and the compere intrudes us to tonight’s support artist “Welcome to the stage from Black Sheep Sound System  ->> FidoX.”

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One of Mr Cope eclectic collaborators, this be a DJ set . One man, two house lamps, couple of laptops and mixer and the voice of Julian. The first 15 minute segment repeats and repeats in multiple variations “Leave yourself behind…Leave yourself behind…Leave yourself behind” …..Indeed. Remixed and smashed and re-mashed, from statemented to screaming; a churning beat. Druid-artism and the tune rolls on as the track morphs and rolls churned and mixed and blended. Before it changes “No Gods… ” Shouting. Stompbeat.  As recommended by the Arch-druid himself.

And then to a break and dash to the bar. Before the man himself appears. Introduction: “From Wessex – Julian H. Cope.”  Be-longhaired, be-capped; be-sunglassed, be-bearded, Cope appears at the front of the stage and salutes his audience. “How the devil are you?” He informs us he will be terribly professional with a bit of banter here and there. This is what Saint Julian does best.

So tonight it’s Mr. Cope and his acoustic guitar. Oh and his spoken word. And the first track of tonight  ‘I’m Living in the Room They Found Saddam In.’ As you do. Che Guevara is in there as is Bin Laden. Amongst others. And Saint Julian himself.

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Mr. Cope, he knows, that in a career as long as he has had, well there is embarrassing periods, and he just has to get over them. He takes a poke at the ‘reunion’ culture’ and to the days of Teardrop Explodes. And recounts the most unsaleable album, and the single most disaster his then record label ever had –  1981’s ‘Wilder’ – as he takes to the next song from the album of said name ‘The Culture Bunker.’ Tonights songs cover his career, just not the commercial bit; from ‘Peggy Suicide’ we have ‘Double Vegetation.’

Cope’s musings and banter are as entertaining as any you may hear  and the mental track of his thought waves are as fiercely logical as they are barmy. He confesses that there is evidence evidence that the rest of the world has wanted to live as out of it as as he has, that archaeologists researching cereal crops couldn’t conclude whether back in the day, we made food or beer. So he wrote a song about the fact that everyone past, present and future want to live out of it. ‘They Were On Hard Drugs.’

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In the 80’s he was an “intuitive none career mover.” Although people liked this song, it was never released by the label on 12” which everyone was buying. The classic ‘Sunspots’. Featuring the anecdote about the sound of a car going past in the lyrics – “meeeeyyyyyooooowwwwnnnnn” translated on a lyric sheet when released in Japan became “Indeed.” When he discovered this he chose to replace said car sound with “Innnndeeeeeddd” for a while – just ‘cos he could.

Change of guitar and now we’re going all psychedelic with ‘Psychedelic Revolution’; off an album from a couple of years ago – a political rant and view on social politics. All those people in Government needs to ‘live out of it.’ too.

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So, while with Teardrop Explodes he was very much an off his head with drugs (check out his awesome autobiographies ‘Head On’ and ‘Repossessed’) , he tells us that he gave up the falling down water for 21 years; he was tee-total. Until he visited a cave in Armenia. Folklore said that there was an ancient village inside, so no-one would venture in. The Arch-druid did  and they were so impressed that they insisted he partook of Mulberry Vodka. So now he’s a born again drinker ; hence this song   “As The Beer Flows Over Me.” As it is within the Glee, when the act takes to the stage, the bar is closed. A couple of punters vocalise their complaint to Cope – “the bar is closed!” Tactful, Cope admits  it maybe difficult to change the policy. He can’t drink till  after the show, so we should wait too. As we are Brummies , industrialized Danes, we will indeed be able to track down beer at a distance…

‘Liver Big As Hartlepool’ is a take on an anecdote on former Wah! member Pete Wylie’s liver, before another song from his lost period (which one? he asks – let alone us asking him) ‘The Greatness and Perfection of Love’. He quips, according to Paul Morley, he is the only person that can sing bah-bah-bah (like a sheep) and mean it.

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His show is full of anecdotes and musings of his mind – too many to mention. He’s writing another book but is currently on sabbatical for 12-18 months depending on whether it’s his or his publishers point of view. As part of this tome about prophets he’s been looking at tyrants, who may be prophets, but were tyrants  and here’s a folk song as they are in his head – ‘Cromwell in Ireland.’

He thinks that arguably, as he gets older, his songs get more profane. He thinks he’s become more gnarly and ingrown – his songs more evil.  So this song takes the foulest of words, looks at their double meanings, the positive and offensive, pokes fun at Americans cos he really wants to annoy them. So to sweet music melody and a Christmas ending (maybe it’ll be number #1 next year)  – he we go – ‘C*** Can F*** Off’. And if you can, ask him to tell the tale of the c*** belt.

‘Pristeen’ up next, rocked out with reverb.

He’s recently released his first novel ‘One Three One’ to critical acclaim. It’s based on really rum stories, stuff he heard. It’s real. Experienced, he tells us – he’s the first method actor novelist. Soundtrack not out yet – but we do get a poem referring back to his thoughts on the ‘Reunion Culture.’ “Reunited and it feels soooo good,” he quips.

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We he knows there a curfew in place and tells us he has 37 songs to select from. So, from  ‘Jehovahkill’ it’s ‘Soul Desert’ which morphs into a screaming and punked out edition.

He saw Fairport Convention when 15. God it was boring; the 70s were shit. He ended up walking home most of the way back to Tamworth, along the lanes of the Aston Expressway and a brief lift with the police, who took him and his mates off this multi-laned thoroughfare and ceremoniously dumped them to walk the rest of the way home. Another criticism of the America he detests and their seven-lanes motorways and we’re into ‘Autogedden Blues’.

Quick break for the encore and he’s back. He’s getting old. He can’t play ‘Up-wards at 45 degrees’ anymore – problem with his hands; maybe a geriatric version  ‘Up-wards at 20 degrees’ and maybe he’ll be in a prog band called OAP. And then the set completed with ‘Robert Mitchum.’

He bows before the whole of the West Midlands, nee Birmingham.

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Julian H. Cope is barking. Mad. Crazy. But pure genius. He’s done his music, his writing, everything creative HIS way. He’s got a ‘greatest hits’ out – Trip Advisor’ 16 visionary songs from 1999-2014. Travel differently it says. Indeed.  And he’d probably like and loathe this is equal measure, he’s kinda a national treasure – the eccentric archdrood, one of the best exponents of the spoken word, quick-witted comedian in his own right, ridiculously talented – the crowd tonight were mesmerised by his performance, his take on life and challenge to this hum-drum life we live. And that’s before he sings and plays songs from his 30 year career. Any opportunity to see him do what he does best like tonight is a must. You can never be sure what you’ll get – but we love, and sure as hell want to live in the crazy mad world of Julian H. Cope.

Setlist

I’m Living in the Room They Found Saddam In
The Culture Bunker
Double Vegetation
They Were On Hard Drugs
Sunspots
Psychedelic Revolution
As The Beer Flows Over Me
Liver Big As Hartlepool.
The Greatness and Perfection of Love
Cromwell in Ireland
C*** Can F*** Off
Pristeen
Soul Desert
Autogedden Blues

Encore
Robert Mitchum

One Response to “Julian Cope + Black Sheep Sound System (FidoX) at The Glee Club, Birmingham, UK – 25th January 2015”

  1. Caesarrye Says:

    You’ve been very kind to Fido. And totally ignored c***belt.

    What a great performance by Copey, though.

    PS: Glee is rather up its own arse and unsuitable for these gigs. The night was primed for alcohol-fuelled, good natured bonhomie. Get back to Moseley Dance Centre for the next one, Julie.

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