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John Cooper Clarke 10:02:2016

John Cooper Clarke 10:02:2016

John Cooper Clarke + Mike Garry + Luke Wright 

Lighthouse, Poole 

It’s all about balance – the sweet with the dour, the gruff with the smooth, the happy with the mad… Strikingly attired in tails, spray-on jeans and ox blood DMs with Eraserhead hair to challenge that of the headline act’s in its prime, 30-something wordsmith Luke Wright brought righteous ire and brimstone to bear on a Poole audience of vaguely punky survivors, curious youth and sundry logophiles.

Tearing into targets from Iain Duncan Smith (in IDS, a seething, scintillating poem in which ‘I’ is the only vowel used) to his own dear wife, he is loud, louche, bawdy, brave and unafraid of the c-word. He’s also a top performer, somehow inhabiting the lines of two standout pieces – Judge Crush and Burt Up Pub (another univocalism, in the ‘filthy’ Anglo-Saxon key of ‘u’).

Hobbling on with crutch and foot brace Mike Garry offered a change of pace. His expressive, intricate style can make you laugh or break your heart in a moment. He writes with fulsome Manc pride of Tony Wilson in St Anthony and populates his poems with a cast of characters he (and through him us) cannot help but love even as we recoil from them. With sophisticated stagecraft, he builds little worlds with words, paints pictures, presents people then dashes them away – as faces still wore their smiles from one line, eyes welled up with tears at the next, never more so than in What Me Mam Taught Me.

All of which served as fine preparation for a 90-odd minute consultation with the good doctor, John Cooper Clarke. A man of letters, of few betters, he shambles, rambles and perambles his way through his back pages to deliver a fair few old favourites (Beesley Street, Evidently Chickentown) and plenty of newer material, most notably the gentrified Beesley Boulevard and the blistering Some C*** Used the N-Word.

We could probably have done with fewer gags – his stuff about ‘the wife’ was pure Manning/Davidson and the irony (if there was any) was lost – but get him on the written word and not even the odd verbal stumble can deflect him from his purpose in Bed Blocker Blues, Get Back on the Drugs, Hire Care and the set opening Official Guestlist.

He’s at his brilliant best unpicking a work in progress (PC Gone Mad), then unpacking a lost gem in She’s Got A Metal Plate In Her Head and rounding the set off with the maniacally devotional I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife.

Praise be, but it’s easy to love John Cooper Clarke and when he returns a little too swiftly (there was a staircase involved and it didn’t sound like we were going anywhere soon, he explains) to encore with I Wanna Be Yours you couldn’t help but feel properly treated.

Nick Churchill


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