John Cooper Clarke | Live Review

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His throw-away one liners had the crowd belly-laughing almost instantly.

As the giddy excitement of old ex-punks and joyous students mingled with the heat from the swimming pool in the Anson Rooms, I couldn’t help but make a terrible dad-worthy joke – “Things seem to be hotting up!” And indeed they were. With a packed out bar and a main room that was even busier, the atmosphere was charged for the man who changed the landscape of British poetry – Dr John Cooper Clarke.

But before the infamous Doctor himself, we were treated to two excellent poets to warm up the night, the first being Mike Garry who took to the stage to open the show. As he walked onto the stage he started singing: “my eyes are sore today, can’t take much more today, just wish someone today, would take this pain away, would take this pain away…” leaving the previously buzzing room hushed by the haunting refrain. Garry then proceeded to launch straight into his poems – biting social commentary with a bullet like intensity. After leaving the room stunned he cracked a smile and said “I’m here to bring you down before Luke Wright and Johnny bring you back up again – it’s all about equilibrium.” Garry’s poems have a not only musicality but a chameleon like quality. Garry switches from scathing social commentary that makes you question your morals to a witty one liner that has you chuckling. The intensity of his performance was obvious as he raised his arms to the sky in an almost deity-like gesture during his beautiful poem ‘A Penny for a Guy’.

Next on was Luke Wright – all floppy hair and exuberance cracking jokes between every poem. He performed with excellent comedic flair and the repeated punch line of his poem ‘Essex Lion’ had the entire crowd laughing. Wright’s excellent accents made his poems come alive as he dramatized each one accordingly. A highlight of his set was his poem ‘The Bastard of Bungay’ which combined political commentary, personal loss and pure comedy at breakneck speed.

Finally the stage blared his opening song, lights flashed, and on walked the man himself, John Cooper Clarke in his trademark sunglasses and gravitationally challenged jet-black hair. His swagger onto the stage was greeted with ecstatic cheers from the audience to which Clarke replied immediately with an onslaught of banter. His throw-away one liners had the crowd belly-laughing almost instantly – which is more that can be said for some stand up comedians. His fantastically acerbic poem ‘Get Back on Drugs you Fat Cunt’ was perfect in it’s comedic timing and had a audience member sitting behind me laughing uncontrollably in fitful bursts of mirth. As well as some brand-new never-before heard poems such as ‘Camarad Klaak’, and some brilliantly concise haikus that seemed to perfectly sum of the intricacies of certain social situations, of course Clarke had to bust out some of his classics.

Before he could even utter the title of the poem an enthusiastic audience member (me) had already screamed out ‘Twat’ and so began Clarke’s vitriolic tirade of hatred that had the audience members join in with it’s eponymous concluding word. Before diving into ‘Evidently Chickentown’ Clarke had a moment to tell the audience ‘I love doing this one, because then my swear box doubles up as a high yield pension scheme.’ Before gracing the eagerly awaiting crowd with his most notorious poem. John Cooper Clarke’s poetic style never fails to disappoint – with his severe monotone, continuous rhymes and alliteration his speech comes with a feral intensity that is unmatched and absorbing to watch. Who said poetry was dead?

Check out ‘Twat’ right here: