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AMBLING on to the Barbican stage in his trademark military hat, golden mane, jackboots and shades — completed by a sleeveless jacket and shorts — the larger-than-life Julian Cope is not as terrifying as he looks. Actually, he’s a real sweetheart.
Welcoming the crowd with outstretched arms, he then peruses the audience with a hand over his eyes before confessing that “there are some of you here that I won’t know,” as if that fact comes as something of a surprise.
The wild and wonderful former frontman of The Teardrop Explodes then launches into the dulcet tones of Soul Desert from Jehovahkill, about as far removed from the style of music that one might expect from someone dressed as a Hells Angel who’s mislaid his leather trousers.
Yet the fact is that his former band is a mere flash-in-the-pan footnote when compared with Cope’s esoteric, pagan-inspired solo career spanning more than 35 years. The Teardrops, key to the Liverpudlian post-punk scene though they were, disbanded after just four years and two albums.
Anyone who has read Cope’s confessional autobiography Head-On about his Teardrops time would be forgiven for thinking that the formerly “say no to drugs” musician has been taking acid ever since he was first introduced to the drug by the band’s one-time guitarist Alan Gill. Based on tonight’s performance, there’s certainly plenty of evidence to go on.
The only person regularly joining Cope on stage appears to be his guitar minder, who does a particularly diligent job in helping the singer find his axes and strapping them to his back.
And the star himself, following his well-documented research into Britain’s stone circles and other ancient sites, published in his much lauded travelogue The Modern Antiquarian, admits to the crowd his belief that all the many cultural wonders of the world were probably the creation of those on the class-A narcotics of the time, before launching into the catchy They Were All On Hard Drugs from Revolutionary Suicide.
Elsewhere, he takes a friendly potshot at former Teardrops bandmate and nemesis David Balfe, as well as playing brilliantly warped and acoustic versions of the band’s hits Treason, Passionate Friend and The Great Dominions.
There’s also his amusing assessment of social media, Your Facebook My Laptop, taken from his new album Self Civil War.
Cope’s unique brand of fuck-off folk reaches its glorious peak in the as-of-yet unreleased homage to the world’s worst Cunts Can Fuck Off.
Cope on the other hand, can come back for an encore and a standing ovation.
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