Thursday, 28 January 2010

614 JULIAN COPE'S "ROME WASN'T BURNED IN A DAY", Sunburned Hand Of The Man, London Hammersmith Lyric Theatre, Thursday 30 October 2003

A "Guardian" piece alerted us to the return of the Arch-Drude, so we sorted tickets for the one of the 3 advertised "Demential Nights Of Barbarian Rock'N'Roll" we could get to, and broke our London curfew again! Rachel picked me up from work and we drove down in filthy weather and heavy traffic, parking in an NCP by 7.30 and finding this renovated theatre venue easily. Got drinks in, then took our seats - excellent front row ones in the Upper Circle balcony, A1 and A2, right by the door. I mention this as this becomes significant later...

Massachusetts' Sunburned Hand Of The Man, support, were an odd post-rock 10-piece with various members wandering, seemingly aimlessly, around the stage, picking up and putting down instruments and throwing them in the air at random. Musically, they sounded like one long introduction, with moody psychedelic overtones similar to the Doors' most unhinged excesses. Weird, but ignore-able! Stayed put afterwards in anticipation of Cope's entrance, expected for 9. Billed as an "electric show", this still didn't necessarily tell us what to expect from this most unorthodox and chameleonic of artists, except that we should expect the unexpected!

Finally, lights down and curtains up at 9, revealing a stark stage set; then the band emerged from a hole in the stage, all fluorescent shirts and boots. Cope emerged last, revealing his latest stage mutation (big boots, blue camo fatigues, topped by a striped painted forehead and a beard you could hide a badger in) which made him resemble the Unibomber after a painting incident in a Nursery. One and a half numbers in, he'd already abandoned the stage, and mobile-mike'd up, sang the thrash punk "Like A Motherfucker" from the stalls, whilst meeting and greeting folks. Then, after half the thrashy oldie "Pulsar", with its' prophetic hook "I've Been Away Too Long", he disappeared, to emerge through the Upper Circle door - right next to us! After rolling on the floor awhile, he joined us and serenaded Rachel before the band burst into the next song, the incredible Stooges-like metallic stomp of "Spacehopper", which he performed whilst variously eyeballing the pair of us, inches away from our faces, and lying precariously on the balcony ledge, before disappearing from whence he came.

This set the tone for a captivating and bewitching front-man performance, laced with humour, observation and downright weirdness from one of a very small handful of musicians (Bowie, Jed Parish, erm...) truly worthy of the "Genius" tag. The first 50 or so minutes concentrated on his newer, thrashy "proto-metal" Brain Donor material, and, admittedly, became a little repetitive. However, the quiet hush of "Las Vegas Basement" onward was pure unhinged genius. Befitting this time of year, Cope wove a wizard-like spell of enticing power over us devotees, culminating in a brilliant "Reynard The Fox", which was the platform for his event theme, and climaxed with his chants for, "education! Education! EDUCATION!"

The 1 3/4 hours flew by, and after a speedy return home in similarly filthy weather, we were left to reflect on another brilliant performance from a maverick genius. Another special night worth breaking the London curfew for!

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