Julian Cope - Gorilla 22/02/2020

Julian Cope is one of those artists that often elicits the reaction “bloody hell is he still going” or “I thought he was dead”, when you tell someone you’ve got tickets to see him. Around for almost as long as the legendary Avebury Stones, which Julian makes reference to, the arch drude has just dropped his 34th solo album, “Self Civil War”, of which we only get 2 glimpses of tonight. If people wondered if he was still relevant 40 years after the first Teardrop Explodes album, then two sold out nights at Gorilla partly answers the question.

Flicking back through his extensive back catalogue, it is easy to see perhaps why he has flown under the radar of all but the most fervent Cope heads since 1997, when he started is own label Head Heritage, home to all of his music since “Rite2”, an ambient exercise in homage to Krautrock.

 

Tonight’s set only features 2 songs from those 20 interceding albums, (1 each from 2012’s – Psychedelic Revolution and 2013’s – Revolutionary Suicide), with the bulk of the set coming from the golden years 1984-1994.

Having seen him at various times during his solo career, the anticipation of which Julian will be on stage can be likened to meeting up with an old flame, years after it flickered out. Will I still fancy them? Will it be awkward? Will I recognise them? Will he play any Teardrop songs? An evening in the company of Krautrock Julian would instantly remind you why perhaps you snubbed it out in the first place.

Bouncing on stage, ragged beard and flowing locks, resplendent with a quasi-North Korean Army cap, sleeveless shirt, knee length shorts and biker boots, looking like one of Freddie Starr’s less thought out characters, he is greeted with loud cheers from the predominantly 50 something crowd.

 

Luckily tonight we are graced with raconteur Julian and his friend Julian the comedian as he kicks off with “Soul Desert” from 1992’s Jehovakill, before introducing us to “My Face Book, Your Laptop” off the latest album, stripped down minus syn drums and keyboards.

He explains how we are now in the presence of royalty, having purchased the title of Prince Of Pomerania off the internet for 200 euros. Falling somewhere between the on-stage banter of Billy Bragg at his most garrulous and Bob Mould at his mutest, JC regales us with the tale of how he unwittingly co-wrote tracks off both The Teardrops and Bunnymen’s debut albums, (Books/Read It In Books) when he tried to rip off The Fall’s “Stepping Out”, lifting Martin Bramah’s guitar licks wholesale, during his “writing group” years more commonly referred to as  The Crucial Three. From a man who has openly discussed and sung about substance abuse he appears incredibly straight and focussed, never missing a beat when heckled, straight in with a response. He also gives us a rant against the hipster practice of blatant plagiarism disguised as “me channelling my inner Strummer/Sid/etc”, whilst admitting to have “channelled” his inner Mark E Smith. Pot meet kettle, a subject which has followed him a round since the first Doors comparison.

This is no hard sell tour, having to remind himself to mention that he has a new LP out, which leads to some cheeky cat-calls from the audience, causing Julian to smile and play along. The Greatness & Perfection of Love, a perfect pop moment, is greeted like a mate returning from the bar, or more precisely ba-ba-bar, as the first singalong of the evening explodes and grey matter is randomly accessed as we try hard to summon up the lyrics to accompany him. He reminds us that someone once wrote that he was the only singer who could sing ba-ba-ba and really mean it.

Further channelling is perhaps in evidence in Autogeddon Blues, a prescient ode to environmental disaster, a full rock out epic and strangely one of two tracks from Autogeddon, the only solo album to feature more than once tonight, Paranormal In The West Country being the other track. Strange because for my money it’s one of his weaker albums. Opinions are great aren’t they? Well that’s mine pop-pickers.

The chatty Julian returns and before They Were On Hard Drugs we get the benefit of his historical research as an author about ancient nomadic tribes and their use of cocaine and ephedra, which was also used by First Nation Americans and Mormon pioneers brewed as tea. Entertaining and educational.

The question of whether there would be any Teardrop Explodes songs in the set is answered as he shifts easily from talking about ancient drug abuse crashing into Passionate Friend and the collective memories are dredged once again for a singalong and I suspect a few moist eyes. Sounds as good stripped down, and we’re off into more ba-ba-bas with a few do-do-dos thrown in for good measure. This is the set fulcrum and further Teardrop classics Great Dominions, with Julian switching to keyboards and Treason are punctuated with Immortal (from new LP) and Cromwell In Ireland, with Julian explaining how much he hates folk music and encouraging audience participation with us joining in on the “Oi’s” (most Sham 69 at times!).

A sprint through Cope’s greatest hits follows with World Shut Your Mouth, Pristeen and the much begged for Sunspots, bringing a most rewarding set to a close save for the rousing encore of Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed. Julian Cope is part of our rock heritage. The king is dead, long live the Prince of Pomerania.

Words & Pictures: Andi Callen. All Rights Reserved

New LP “Self Civil War” is out now on Head Heritage records and can be purchased from www.headheritage.co.uk/merchandiser/item/HH37/