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Julian Cope: Good, but not a command performance – Part 2, London

17 Feb 2006 / in music and gigs
Such is my loathing of London it has to be something pretty special to get me there. The event that forced me to the capital last night was Julian Cope playing at Koko in Camden.

We saw him two nights before in Oxford and I hadn’t intended to go to the London gig, but the lure of meeting up with a bunch of Cope fans before the gig, including one from Dublin, two from Iberia and one from Santa Fe, USA, was too great to resist. A merry old time was had in the pub for four or five hours before the gig.

As a non-drinker, I find pubs quite awkward places to be so I took my trusty flask of tea to help me through. As we entered the venue my bag was searched, and the security guy raised a wry smile when I explained that the flask only contained Lady Grey with little milk and half a sugar. He sniffed it just to make sure and allowed me in.

We jostled our way down to the front with all our excited mates and waited for ages for The Arch Drude to appear. When he did, my back and legs were already aching, so within two songs, I was forced to beat a retreat to the back of the venue where I found a convenient step on which to sit and enjoy the gig.

His set list was excellent and varied and very similar to the one he played at Oxford. Again, a magnificent version of ‘Highway to the Sun’ and ‘Hanging Out and Hung Up on the Line’. And again he took the opportunity to play solo at the mellotron and with his guitar, which is my favourite way to hear Cope at his purest. He did a delightful medley of ‘Julian H Cope’ which morphed into ‘Out of my mind on dope and speed’ closely followed by the brilliantly simple and jaunty ‘Robert Mitchum’. Though daft, I love that song.

As usual, he interspersed his songs with banter and opinion which some of the audience don’t like. They heckled him to ‘get on with it!’ But they are missing something; the chat is all part of the Julian Cope Experience. To truly understand where his music comes from, you have to get to grips with the way the man thinks. His chat last night was as good as ever.

Last night he didn’t finish with ‘Reynard the Fox’, the song he reserves for cutting himself. Good job too, because there was a nasty fresh slash on his belly, probably inflicted in Bournemouth at the gig the night before. Instead he treated us to a full-on rendition of ‘World Shut Your Mouth’, closely followed by ‘Spacehopper’.

Sitting at the back gave me a view I hadn’t expected. I saw many of the audience leaving early. Perhaps they hoped the Julian of old would sing pop songs rather than the heavy, full-on electric rock ‘n’ roll which now forms the bulk of his output. I estimate he lost 15% of his audience by the time the gig was half way through. Perhaps it was because last night Julian didn’t command the audience in the way I know he is capable of. Possibly he’d had too many drugs.

Despite this, the general feeling from the 20 or so hard-core Cope fans I was with was ‘fabulous’!

Photos: Moth Clark

Here’s a review of the gig by The Guardian.

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