Friday, 16 July 2010

437 JULIAN COPE PRESENTS "CORNUCOPEA", London Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 1 April 2000

And now for something completely different; a new slant on an evening "Festival" thanks to the odd yet fertile mind of a certain Mr. Julian H Cope! To be honest, I bought these tickets in anticipation of a Cope solo show, but this ultimately turned out to be a "Meltdown" type festival, spread over 2 nights and numerous stages, highlighting some of Copey's favourite musicians. So I picked Rachel up at 3 and we headed off, really not knowing what to expect!

Parked in Hammersmith and finally hit the grandiose and arty South Bank before doors at 6.30, taking in the atmosphere and the view across the Thames before doors. And there, handing out joss-sticks and meeting and greeting people at the door, was none other than Julian himself! So I took the opportunity to shake hands with one of my great rock icons. No sooner were bearings then gained, when compere Sean Hughes announced the first set of the evening, in the Purcell Room, a 300-capacity studio which reminded me of Boston's Museum Of Fine Arts hall! UNIVERSAL PANZIES kicked off there, but were a dreadful mess - 3 uber glammed up space cadets playing ultra-droney experimental rock. Like an introduction that never gets going, so after 3 numbers we got going!

Back to the foyer for what we were really here for, as Sean Hughes announced the entrance of JULIAN COPE to the packed lobby at 7.30. All long hair, black leggings and evidently no underpants, leopard pattern blouse and the hugest platform boots known to man, Jools cut an imposing figure. Evidently loving this moment and revelling in the attention, he revealed himself to be a most excellent raconteur, with debates on the premise behind the event ("a horn of plenty - and there's plenty of horn here!"), his different musical projects, and his intention to reclaim both Odin from the Norsefolk, and Diana from the "weeping biddies!" Barking mad, but totally, utterly, rivetingly absorbing, as well as outrageously funny!

Oh yeh, he played some songs as well! A smattering of numbers on acoustic and electric guitars and fluorescent mellotron, varying from his recent arch-Drude Friend Of The Earth days, through his initial poppier solo efforts (such as the splendid set closer "Sunspots") and even back to the pseudo-mythological attempts at grandiose pop with The Teardrop Explodes (a totally unexpected "Great Dominions" - great stuff!). They all galloped by in swift order, interspersed with much more banter. Huge smiles after each number, and paying no mind at all to the hubbub between (and occasionally during) his numbers. Pure talent, pure excellence.

This took us up to just before 9, so we ignored the attractions of "The Minuscule Of Sound", the smallest disco in the world (a shed about the size of a toilet!) and sauntered into the main room, The Queen Elizabeth Hall. SKYRAY were on there; this being a new incarnation of Paul Simpson, former Wild Swans vocalist. Unfortunately he's eschewed his former charges' epic sounds for pleasant ambient pop, and he's also abandoned the microphone altogether as well. Skyray were like St. Etienne's backing tracks; nice and pleasant enough, but not my cup of chill, and a sorely wasted talent. Back into the Purcell Room for the clashing GROUNDHOGS, who were a blues-based cacophony of sound, played by a 3-piece who looked like a father, son and grandson combo! The old boy on guitar/vocals might have had a bald pate and more lines on his face than British Rail, but his guitar work was magnificent. Overall, the band resembled late-period Doors fronted by a Lightnin' Hopkins blues-alike who looked like Deputy Dawg, but the guitarist "wigged out" as if his instrument was an extension of himself. Lots of dirty old blues and epic "rawk" endings, from what turned out to be the best set of the night apart from Copey himself.

A stop for a drink, and taking in the proceedings in the foyer, before a trip to the Main Hall for QUEEN ELIZABETH, Cope's techno outfit. However, mucho loops and bleeps are hard on my ears, so this appeared to be a soundtrack to a migraine part 2 (remember Merz, supporting Suede a couple of years back?). So we abandoned that, and back in the bar for more drinks and star-spotting; and we hit the jackpot, with a chat with the afore-mentioned Paul Simpson, who remembered me from the Wild Swans Astoria days in the mid-80's as being very very young, bless him! A short chat and a handshake from another of my rock icons was another highlight of the evening.

This took us to 11, and the foyer appearance of KID STRANGE, another acid-rock casualty with Stetson and purple suit far too small for his height. A couple of strumalong numbers didn't tempt us, so we took our seats in the main hall for the finale. The lights finally dimmed at 20 to 12, and Sean Hughes announced the winners of the "Krautrock Colouring Competition", a foyer-bound activity during the evening to embellish a Faust album cover. The winner was - hey - a graphic designer!

Then BRAIN DONOR rocked onto the stage at 1/4 to 12; Cope with double-necked guitar and Kiss-like warpaint, accompanied by 2 similarly clad space cadets playing thrashy rock, variously described by Cope as "false metal" or "bubblegum metal". Intriguing, in an over-the-top China Drum meets Kiss kind of way, especially the 3rd number in, which appropriated the riff from Copey's classic "Spacehopper". Unfortunately, that was the end of it for us, as we left the gig at 10 past 12 to be sure of getting to our car park before it shut at 1. A nasty surprise was in store, however, as our parking bill was £19! Ouch! Still, despite that (and not hitting the hay until 1/4 to 3!), this was an experience to remember. Julian Cope - Floored Genius!

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