Last night proved to be something of a trial…..new readers should read the previous post for the ‘mise-en-scene’…..so, off to the Hare & Hounds to rendezvous with Ade, Rob, Chris and a few others for the John Cooper Clarke gig. We all met up about 8 pm, only to find out that JCC was not expected on stage until 1015.
So, we sat around and waited, consuming a few beers along the way, but I found it really unsettling; partly because this was my first appearance as a non-smoker amongst smoker friends, but mainly because the H&H is such a grothole dive of a pub. I was also disconcerted by the fact that I knew hardly anyone, despite the pub being only about a 3-minute walk from this house and me a near-as-dammit 20-year Kings Heath veteran. In the end, I supposed the alcohol relaxed me a bit, but it still seemed an eternity until we finally made our way upstairs to the gig.
Even then, we were thwarted because we had to……ummmm….experience a strange local six-piece band (name eludes me, sorry) whose roots were clearly in people like The Fall & Captain Beefheart, with a gobby lead singer, a Japanese guitarist and a baritone sax player who looked like a refugee from the Moody Blues. If it sounds weird, then who am I to argue, but I use the verb ‘experience’ rather than ‘suffer’ or ‘endure’ because this lot were at least vaguely original in their approach. Also, anyone who introduces the next opus by saying “Time for another song about Dudley Port…” is clearly no stranger to irony and the underlying surrealism of everyday life.
We then got a local Muslim ‘comedian’ (Nadeem?) who set out to be edgy and confrontational but just fell flat. No-one was really sure if he was taking the piss out of his culture, white culture or anything really. mercifully, he swiftly handed over to the Bard of Salford and we were off….
It’s often said that distance lends enchantment and I suppose it had crossed my mind that JCC might – like so many of his punk-era contemporaries – have not aged well or gracefully. However, I needn’t have worried. He was right into it from the very start. What has changed with John is only for the better. The first half of his set was almost like stand-up comedy rather than just him reading his poems and his observations were astute and often hilarious. The poems themselves were not just the old favourites either – there was some excellent new stuff on a variety of topics including Alzheimer’s (“There are 3 good things about Alzheimer’s; one, you get to hide your own Easter Eggs, two, you meet new people every day and three, you get to hide your own Easter Eggs.”), the town of Burnley (won’t be visiting any time soon) and life down south (‘The Hanging Gardens of Basildon’). It was a highly amusing hour or so and cheered me up no end. The wait had been lengthy, but it was worth it in the end. The man is a national treasure.