John Cooper Clarke Performed at The Glee Club and it was Awesome

Video: Georgianna Scurfield
Interview: Claire Louise
Tuesday 02 May 2017
reading time: min, words

Enigmatic punk poet, John Cooper Clarke visited Nottingham and swapped limericks with Claire Louise from The Dilettante Society...

Thursday last was an unforgettable night among the sea of sensational, inspirational shindigs and happenings that was Nottingham Poetry Festival 2017*. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little bit of a John Cooper Clarke fangirl. Lucky I suppose, considering there’s now footage of my sycophantic grin and idolising eyes poring over one of my longstanding punk and poetic heroes, shortly after his sell-out show at Nottingham’s fabulous Glee Club, firmly entrenched in my digital footprint.

The Good Dr. himself. The rock-star, punk poet whose face has graced the silver screen, and whose dulcet tones, saturated with Salford grit, became the voice of the disaffected. The man who sowed the wild oats from which a generation of mouthy poets, manic musicians, absurd comedians and weird, totally wired performance artists would grow.

Firstly, let’s get it out the way that any John Cooper Clarke gig is pretty much guaranteed to be good. The man’s a genius; so much has been established. What made this night so spectacular, were the support acts who commanded the stage before the big man.  

First up, from Knottingley and described by Independent Leeds as “a rising star in the dark sky of punk poetry”, was the heart-wrenchingly hilarious Toria Garbutt. A teenage Jim Morrison obsessive and rebel grrrl, inspired by the Beat generation’s unabashed refusal to set boundaries on language and drawn to the oral tradition of poetically arranged words which speak the truth in a world of lies, as the purest punk art form.

Now, I’m the first to admit I was a little, emotional, shall we say, throughout the course of the evening (alright, fine, I was a star-struck ball of nervous energy, sat front and centre, on the verge of wetting myself with excitement). Nevertheless, I laughed so hard I half snorted my beer as she regaled the assembled crowd with bitter-sweet reminiscences of teenage lust, and she even said ‘bless you’ when I sneezed several times shortly after. Yet it was her heartbreakingly intimate account of lives lost to drugs to numb themselves from societal woes, lost to oblivion in a dead end town, which touched me deep enough to draw a tear or two to my eye.

I know for a fact I wasn’t the only one to experience this visceral rollercoaster of emotion. An equally enamoured and inspired friend mentioned after the show that she too had let slip a few tears, her’s over the second act of the evening, the majestic Mick Garry. If you’ve not yet heard St Anthony, his touching tribute to the curator of modern Manchester, Factory Records legend Anthony H Wilson, do yourself a favour, look it up at the next available opportunity. This melodic celebration of the Mancunian way was set to an uplifting orchestral score by composer Joe Duddell of New Order and Elbow acclaim, and the star studded video is well worth a watch.

So, what about the big man I hear you cry? Amazing. Goes without saying really. No two Dr. John Cooper Clarke gigs are the same, and for me at least, this one will go down in history. He closed up his set with his personal favourite, the justification for this flagrant favoritism: that it appeared on the back credits of the penultimate episode of The Sopranos. What followed was an impassioned impersonation of Tony Soprano that had the audience in stitches, myself included, before segwaying seamlessly into Evidently Chickentown.  

If old Bill was the bard was of the Elizabethan glory days, JCC is the 21st century Conservative-Corporate Establishment’s court jester. Blending astute social commentary and cultural observation with an uncanny wit, this scrawny, scrap of a chap with a slick tongue and more rhythm than The London Philharmonic's percussive section, Dr. Clarke is the People’s Poet and Britain’s sexiest, pin-up pensioner.

*Polite disclaimer from Tommy Farmyard and the organisers of Nottingham Poetry Festival 2017: This gig coincided with but was not curated by the festival.  

John Cooper Clarke was at The Glee Club on Wednesday 26 April

John Cooper Clarke website

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