I’ll tell ya’s – I’ve been a regular social butterfly the past couple of weeks. Caught “Love And Information” in London and then, just last Friday, Pixie and I saw Julian Cope at the O2 in Oxford.
I’d never seen him live before, so I was looking forward to the show. Copey’s not as crazed as he was back in the late 80s/early 90s – still, he’s one of those guys where you don’t really know what to expect. He could do a drone-metal show with a full band, an ambient show with a few keyboards, or an acoustic folkie-type show. This tour it’s the latter, we found out when we got to the venue. The stage was pretty bare, aside from an electronic keyboard sat on a mellotron (a real one!), a few mic stands and a huge bass drum with the inscription “You Can’t Beat Your Brain For Good Entertainment” on the front.
The support act was Anton Barbeau, an American psychedelic folkie (and cousin of actress Adrienne). He played a nice little set and with his elfin stature and springy hair, reminded me at times of Tyrannosaurus Rex-era Marc Bolan. The highlights for me were the set opener, “This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7” and a country-ish tune with “Trouble” in the title (should’ve written them down). The songs are well-crafted and the Robyn Hitchcock lyrical comparisons seem pretty spot-on, though Barbeau’s songs seem far less exploratory (psychologically) than Hitchcock’s. I kinda wish he knew a couple of extra chords as well – two of the songs he played (in a row) had the exact chord structure. The final tune, “The Banana Song“, has a catchy melody and Barbeau did an amusing bit where he sang between two mics – one of which had an echo effect, so his voice would almost pan around the room from the echoed mic. He’s also playing with ex-Soft Boys (to further the Robyn connection) members Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor in Three Minute Tease. Barbeau announced that they were playing an in-store gig at the Truck Records shop the following day, but I didn’t make it down there.
The Cope took the stage with an acoustic guitar, after an introduction by a bloke called Fido-X of Cope’s side-band, Black Sheep. Fido’s a tall, biker-looking dude who could double as a Motorhead roadie. Cope was dressed in his general’s cap, leather vest, aviator shades, khaki shorts and leather boots. His hair is cut short at the moment and with all the rest of the gear, he looked like Douglas MacArthur on the set of a Mad Max film. He tore into the opening tune, a cracking version of “Raving On The Moor”, from his newest album, Psychedelic Revolution. His voice was in fine form and he had a cool, feedback-y/flange-y effect on the acoustic which gave it a growling tone. For the rest of the set, he would play a few tunes on the acoustic, then amble over to the mellotron/digital keyboard set-up for a tune. The set covered songs off of “Psychedelic Revolution”, but surprisingly he dipped into various places in his back catalogue – even his former early 80s new-wave psychedelic band, The Teardrop Explodes (a nice, droney version of “The Great Dominions“, played on the digital keyboard). He also played a couple of songs from his (arguably) best solo record, Peggy Suicide and one from the 1992 follow-up, Jehovahkill. He even dipped back into his first solo album, Fried, with a spirited version of “O King Of Chaos” – another keyboard excursion.
Cope still likes to interact with the punters, too. He’d talk about what he’s been up to and any shouted asides from the crowd would be met with a witty riposte or a quick assent. Of course, there’s always the uber-fan who has to try and out-do everyone else. There was one guy who was almost trying to have a conversation with him, while he was on-stage, throughout most of the show. I kept waiting for either Cope or someone near to the uber-fan to tell him to shut the fuck up, but it never happened. The best bit of Julian’s on-stage chats was when he was discussing the “Droolian/Skellington“-era and he was at the Island Records offices. He ran into Paul Morley, journalist and half-owner of the ZTT label and Morley asked Cope: “How are you puttin’ out all these fookin’ records?” Cope imitated Morley in a near-perfect Manc accent. Had me laughing for ages.
The final tune in the main set was “Robert Mitchum” (from “Droolian”), which featured a funny dig at Axl Rose (who, according to Cope, ruined the whistling solo forever). He re-appeared shortly after with Fido-X and Doggen (another Black Sheep member) and played a short encore. The highlight was a rocking version of “Out Of My Mind On Dope And Speed“, which got the crowd singing and bopping along. The Cope then waved goodbye and the house lights came on.
I would recommend that you catch any remaining shows, but Julian announced that it was the final night of the tour. He is doing a couple of appearances for his Copendium project – but I don’t think he’s doing any more gigs for the rest of the year. Glad we caught this show – it was well worth it!
Set list (Julian Cope):
Raving On The Moor
Cromwell In Ireland (with Fido-X on bass drum)
Mother, Where Is My Father? (David Peel cover – with Fido-X on bass drum)
As The Beer Flows Over Me
The Great Dominions
I’m Your Daddy
Pristeen (with Doggen on bongos)
Stone Circles ‘N’ You (with Doggen on bongos)
I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In
Jellypop Perky Jean
Julian H. Cope (with Doggen on bongos)
Unisex Cathedral In D (with Doggen on bongos)
O King Of Chaos
Head Hung Low
Greatness & Perfection Of Love
Out Of My Mind On Dope & Speed