Wednesday, 13 January 2010

643 JULIAN COPE, Dogntank, Reading 21 South Street, Saturday 18 September 2004

The welcome return of an old favourite gave us the reason to check out a brand new venue in Reading - 21 South Street, a renovated Arts Centre type venue accessible from Queen's Road car park, where we parked just before 8. Hit the venue - smaller than I'd expected! - and wandered apprehensively down to a good viewing spot down the front. You never know what to expect from Copey, hence the apprehension!

But first, we had to put up with the primitive garage rock of Dogntank, led by one of Cope's "oppo's", guitarist Doggen. I didn't hear much of the supposed glam rock influences - to me they were primal, embryonic and tuneless, apart from one reasonable slowish number.

Julian Cope joined us at 9.30 for what turned out to be an acoustic show, played primarily with a fat luminous green acoustic guitar, with occasional forays onto a double-neck or flying-V. Introduced onstage by Doggen, he strode on brandishing his new book (a study of the stone circles of Europe, which he claimed took him from Norway to the Iraqi border, whence he found it was, "a bad time to grow a beard!"), then kicked into a new number off the forthcoming and perennially delayed "Citizen Cain'd" album. Then, amazingly, a couple of numbers of debut solo effort "World Shut Your Mouth" - first the romper-stomper of "Quizmaster", stripped down to a tense ballad, then the bouncy "Bandy's First Jump", again given the naked treatment.

A whistle-stop trip through Cope's entire canon ensued - even the Brain Donor songs sounding good in this format ("I'm a tuneful motherfucker," quoth he!) - accompanied by the Arch-Drude's unique banter, sharp as a tack and more hilarious than most comedians I'd seen recently. Humorously referring to a set-list taped to the back of his guitar, Cope bestrode the stage like a musical colossus; the tense, sinister "Fear Loves This Place" and the touching, tender "Head Hang Low" my favourites in another brilliant 1 3/4 hour set.

Another couple of highlights - Cope took the time out to give the book to a fan down the front (whom he knew by name), and after the set he exhorted everyone to keep cheering as he exited through the audience. Oh yeh, the Ian McCulloch impressions, and his plan to reform the Teardrop Explodes, "with no original members - not even me!" And...

Every moment a highlight. Another brilliant evening in the company of this genius and supreme showman!

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