mercredi, octobre 11, 2000

Julian Cope

Julian Cope live. City Varieties, Leeds ****

Dave Simpson. Wednesday October 11, 2000. The Guardian

Julian Cope has nothing to promote. No new book; there hasn't been a new album for four years. He's touring, he tells us, because people at his sporadic book-signing sessions said he should. On one hand, this sums up the eco-warrior author's now seemingly irreversible marginalisation as a pop performer. But almost three marvellous hours in his company demonstrate that Cope's unlikely success is something far more cherishable.

He doesn't even have a record company, never mind kowtow to one, but creates an intimate, magical antidote to rock's current sterile, corporate excesses. Cope has spent the past 20 years trying to convince us that he's weird, but seems to have finally accepted that he's just extremely funny.

This year's model wears stack heel boots (which render him 8ft tall), ladies' tights, a camouflage jacket, make-up and about three tons of matted hair. With his neck dyed blue, he looks like a neanderthal man reincarnated as a larger-than-life glam rocker. His appearance may well render this show unsuitable for small children (who would certainly run away), but at least it's impossible to look elsewhere.

Half the show is aided by Donald Ross Skinner on bass/ keys and normal haircut; the rest is just Cope, a guitar, a synthesised drone and wit. The stripped-down, ghostly voices lean towards Cope's Fried period, and there are few hits - but plenty of visits to the back catalogue's political wing.

Like Frank Zappa, Cope appears to have realised that the best way to deliver a serious message is with humour. Promised Land, he says, was designed to get rid of Thatcher. "It didn't work," he sighs. "I needed two or three other songs."

Sunspots is mauled, Me Singing is spellbinding, but there aren't any new songs. Three years in the making, his Citizen Caned album remains uncompleted. However, for the moment it is enough for Cope to remind us that he "rocks" (as he puts it). Thus, for Sleeping Gas, he crawls Iggy-like on his belly, clambers over the theatre's seats, and finally stands precariously aloft on two chairs. "I'll be back next time with bigger boots!" he howls. And he probably will.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004