Yesterday we spent the day at the Latitude festival, which weâ€™d very kindly been given guest passes for.
Iâ€™m not a big fan of multi-stage festivals as I find the constant moving around between stages pretty annoying, but Latitude has a very chilled ambience. Iâ€™m ashamed to say we werenâ€™t that interested in most of the music; we had primarily come to see Julian Cope. Julian wasn’t on until the early evening, so we spent the day hanging out with Cope-loving friends near the comedy tent.
We couldn’t get inside the tent to see Russell Howard (he’s the young blonde Bristolian man on ‘Mock the Week’) so tried to hear what we could from the speakers outside but were a little bit too far back and his voice was drowned out by music from one of the other stages. Learning from this experience we got a lot nearer the tent and one of the big outdoor tellies and waited for Ross Noble to take the stage â€“ inside the tent was already packed and way too hot!
OK, so I’m predisposed to love anyone that does BBC Radio 4′s ‘Just a minute’, but from the start Geordie stand-up Ross Noble was brilliant. He continued to be brilliant and at the end he got even brillianter!
We’re a nation that prides itself on creativity, humour and love of language, making this man a jewel our crown. He lets his mind go in ways I wouldn’t dare! He makes it up as he goes along allowing one absurd idea to morph into another. He talked about wormholes, Jesus, whalesong, Red Bull, vegetarians and wind chimes and was fascinated with his dual audience â€“ those inside and those outside the comedy tent. He ended by conducting his two audiences taking it in turns, line by line, to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, after which he got his entire audience of more than 2,000 people to spontaneous run down the hill from the comedy tent with him in front, towards to veggie pie shop in a giant ‘conga’-style riot.
What other festival goers, who hadnâ€™t been at Ross’s performance, thought as they witnessed us chanting â€œNo-ble! No-ble! No-ble!â€ as he crowd surfed, can only be wondered at.
And so to Julian Cope who weâ€™d driven all this way to see. Even after all these years, and all the Cope gigs weâ€™ve seen, you never know what you’re going to get. This was surely the oddest of them all.
It started badly; he was due on stage at 7.25, going off at 8.10pm. Behind the makeshift black curtain held up across the stage to increase the drama of a ‘reveal’ of Copeâ€™s eventual arrival, we could just make out people running around with cables, plugging stuff in, trying to get things working. Time ticked on. The crowd got twitchy, there was slow-hand clapping and some unkind comments, as if the delay was Copeâ€™s fault, which it wasnâ€™t. Stagetime at festivals is crucial. The previous act had finished late, so even if Julian had started on time the whole thing would have run late. The Latitude technicians struggled. The technical hitch meant he couldnâ€™t start playing until just after 8pm.
He had ten songs on the set list, but in the end all we got were two new songs, ‘Come the revolution’ and the fabulously entitled ‘All the Blowing Themselves Up Motherf*ckers (Will Realise the Minute They Die That They Were Suckers)’, ‘Sleeping gas’ and a dramatic rantâ€¦
The first two songs went down well, the long delay forgotten by the crowd of the curious and cult followers. Then came ‘Sleeping gas’, during which he sacrificed a bass guitar to the gods. Smashing up a guitar on stage maybe an old clichÃ©, but done well it still has power and Julian did it well.
But at some point during the song, the Latitude technical people started turning OFF the instruments’ feed to the PA, presumably to get him off stage as time was ticking on â€“ heâ€™d already been on stage forâ€¦ ooh, 15 minutesâ€¦ But this is Julian Cope and he had a message to get across, a rational, powerful uncompromising message; a heartfelt plea to live for NOW and not save yourself for an invisible sky god. ‘Sleeping gas’ ranted into ‘Reynard’ and he continued his lecture about Blakian desire and restraint while trying to start ‘Pristeen’ and urging the crowd to ‘Tell your grandchildren that people like me existed!’ … or something.
Suddenly it was over. Less than 30 minutes after heâ€™d started and through a series of events totally out of Julian’s control, his performance left even a small group of us loyal (some might say ‘hardcore’) fans, who thought we’d seen him do it all before, speechless. It was extraordinary!
This â€˜Uncutâ€™ article is accurate when it says: “â€¦while Cope often talks about his music being necessarily confrontational, he rarely takes that music to an audience that isn’t immensely tolerant of his digressions.” He dared to do it.
As Martha Wainwright took to the stage (she got all her allotted stage time), a few us sat outside trying to understand the spectacle weâ€™d just witnessed. Yes, I felt disappointment that Julian hadnâ€™t been allowed to play and perhaps woo some new fans, but I also felt delight and pride to be fan of someone so uncompromisingly honest.
The evening ended with wonderful, arse-shakingly good vibes from blind Malian couple
Amadou & Mariam whose Afro-pop rhythms got right into my soul and inspired me to get hold of their album ‘Dimanche a Bamako’.
What a day! As this Uncut review says, Cope and Noble were definitely the two best things to see. I’d agree with that.
Photos: Moth Clark