The intended 3 troubadours became 2 after Peej, struggling to shake off a cold, cried off late on. So Rachel disrupted her CIPS study weekend in Milton Keynes to drive cross-country and pick me up for the trip across Marlborough Downs to Sarum, accompanied by a clear full moon. All very Cope!
Amazingly, this was my first trip to Salisbury for rock, so unsurprisingly we got lost, driving past our turn-off while I was looking in vain for a signpost for The City Hall (a not unimportant building, one would assume from the name). So, a confusing trip around the one way system later, we parked up at 8 and scuttled over to the venue, getting into our 2nd row, stage left (and bloody good view!) seats just as Cope was finishing first number "Upwards At 45 Degrees". Visually, Julian was as stunningly unorthodox as ever; huge platform boots, skin-tight leggings leaving you in no doubt that Julian dresses to the left, a blue combat waistcoat, and all topped off with the exploding hair and a face and neck daubed in orange and blue woad.
The first few numbers passed in a shimmer of spaced-out spangly acoustic guitar, drawing mainly from the post-"Peggy Suicide" earthly awakening of Cope's history. The stuff was pretty absorbing, especially the well-received "Autogeddon Blues", prompting somewhat of a re-appraisal of this period of Cope music of my part. Cope himself was once again a splendidly entertaining focal presence and raconteur as he espoused his view of the world and all within it, whenever the opportunity arose. Following a splendid "Sunspots", played "gratuitously" on a double-necked guitar ("as it's one of my simplest songs," quoth the Cope), Jools hiked off the stage for a prowl around the audience, his theory being that great rock'n'roll only needs a front-man (and with a front-man like Cope, who could argue?). Hopping back onstage, Cope then delivered "Me Singing" from 1984's "Fried" album, which for its touching emotiveness was my highlight of the night. Superb.
One then became two, as Julian introduced old partner in crime Donald Ross Skinner to back him up for a couple of numbers, including "Laughing Boy" and a marvellously spooky (and unexpected!) "Sleeping Gas", the Teardrop Explodes' first single from over 22 years ago! Donn-eye held the absorbing monotone rhythm firm as Cope, again, prowled around the audience, masterful and menacing. This, amazingly, took us up to the advertised "100 Minutes With Julian Cope" but Cope, decreeing every subsequent song an encore, stayed with us for a rousing send-off, culminating in a toy organ-led (Donn-eye again) "Jellypop Perky Jean" and an amazing "Pristeen", beautiful in it's haunting, wounded simplicity.
And at that point the Cope departed to a deserved standing ovation, having delivered over 2 hours of amazing, totally riveting and visually stunning entertainment. He seemed as reluctant to leave the stage as we were for him to go, and he exhorted us to all return when he plays "Old Sarum" in the future (having consistently referred to Salisbury throughout the set as "New" Sarum!). I got tour t-shirted up at the merch stand in celebration of a most forward-thinking mofo. Copey, once again, was more than just "ok" (as some girls shouted from the audience, causing Julian to run excitedly across the stage and sarcastically tell Donn-eye). As we left New Sarum (no wrong turnings this time!) we had no doubt we'd been in the presence of a fried yet totally awesome talent. Superb - no less!