Monday, 15 October 2012

856 JULIAN COPE, Anton Barbeau, Oxford O2 Academy 2, Saturday 13 October 2012

The gig lull of late Summer and early Autumn now over, this one signals a heady rush of 9 gigs which I currently have scheduled between now and November! Yay! And it’s a welcome return for Julian Cope, the New-Millennial Renaissance man and acid-fried prize fruitcake of rock’n’roll, an undisputed genius who epitomises the cruel truth of those blessed with such visionary gifts, that they also never seem to stray far from the welcoming embrace of madness. Last spotted on “The Dirty Boat”, 2 summers ago, this chance to see the Arch-Drude poke his head out from behind the curtain, as usual, proved too tempting for me.

Rach however decided to save her babysitting tokens for other things, but old Level 3 buddy Jason, plus his mate “Skiddy”, accompanied me for a swift and entertaining drive over, putting the world of rock’n’roll to rights on the way. We hit the venue just as support Anton Barbeau was rounding off his last, dirge-like number, including a Ziggy Stardust reference which should have had the Thin White Duke reaching for his lawyer’s phone number…

The crowd, disrespectfully thin early doors, thankfully filled up for the entrance of the Cope, again introduced by his San Fransisco biker-clad roadie as, “from Wessex, England, Julian H Cope!” Adorned by black military leather but bereft of the trademark straggly hair of recent times, he was off and away (with the fairies?) from the outset, a commanding and riveting stage presence throughout. Initially bolshy and militant, declaring a protest theme for the evening (protest songs of some sort or other proliferated the early set selection), he mellowed into his usual captivating, entertaining and downright hilarious self in short order, again cherry-picking numbers from the totality of his extensive canon. A touching “Soul Desert” was preceded by Cope complaining his 2 daughters had banned him from talking about Chairman Mao at the breakfast table! A Scottish nationalist debate, precipitated by a punter down the front then punctuated by a “fuck Scotland!” shout from a suspiciously Scottish sounding voice at the back, preceded Cope adjourning to the mellotron and calling for a “garish amount of light”, for the old Teardrop Explodes classic “The Great Dominions”, 30 years young and still a comely, coquettish lass of a song. Then he was back on his road-weary acoustic guitar for an angry, absorbing and frankly majestic “Autogeddon Blues”, before a bare, touching “I’m Your Daddy” (“the quietest protest song I’ve ever written”) tugged the heartstrings.

A reintroduced and lasciviously rendered “Conspiracist Blues” got a chuckle, before “Psychedelic Revolution”, the title track of his new album, which was a surprisingly sumptuous and melodic treat, recalling the “World Shut Your Mouth” era “ba ba ba” Cope. A selection from “Droolian” and “Skellington” (“Island didn’t want me to put [these albums] out, but I did in any case!”) then followed, a playful “Jellypop Perky Jean” a highlight.

"Let's see how we’re doing for time, as I’ve only got 70 songs left to play!”, Cope declared as he hit the closing stages of the gig (“you’re a lot sadder about it than I am,” he then quipped). However, he saved the best for last with a superb finale quartet; a lovely mellotron powered “Head Hang Low” (“from my wilderness years,” quoth Cope), “Robert Mitchum” (Cope deciding to omit the whistling solo in protest against Axl Rose, and making quacking noises in the middle eight instead!), a buoyant, rambunctious “Sunspots”, featuring the sing-along Doppler Effect chorus, then the headlong rollercoaster road trip that is “Out Of My Mind On Dope And Speed” to finish off.

What a strange and wild ride, what a startlingly swift 1 ¾ hour set. Great stuff as ever from a thoroughly captivating performer, complete one-off, and total entertaining nutcase. Julian Cope, we salute you!

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