JULIAN COPE live 2020 – review

JULIAN COPE AT SUB89 IN READING, FEBRUARY 2, 2020

Because Oxford no longer seems to figure on Julian Cope’s tour roster, and because yours truly wasn’t up for travelling anywhere – not quite fired up enough after Skellington 3 (patchy good) and Dope on Drugs (erm ….) – it meant a Live Drude Experience was casually written off when the tour was announced. Some other time, eh?

But then, Self Civil War came out. Bastard. Seems this most vital of rock and roll forces still packs a ledded HB, which prompted a lengthy Archdrude listening fest and shit-shit-shit – are there any tickets left for Reading???

Yep. Panic over. Let’s go see Julian on tour. Exciting.

Was it worth it?

The first quarter hour answers that question: the first track is Jehovahkill’s Soul Desert, SOUL BLOODY DESERT, and then a few minutes later we get Autogeddon Blues, not just all-time greats but also big-time responsible for my own initiation into Cope’s alterna-world back in the day. So yes, already worth it, and shame on me for not being arsed enough in the first place.

Anyway, the gig. There’s nothing radical in the set-up, it’s the tried-and-tested No Band format, just Cope solo with a semi-electric acoustic, plenty o’ pedals and rich prickings from his vast body of song. My Facebook Your Laptop and Immortal are the Self Civil War airings, Drink Me Under the Table‘s lusty one-nighter is the Drunken Songs rep, and beyond that we get disparates like Greatness and Perfection, Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed, Culture Bunker, Passionate Friend, They Were on Hard Drugs and Great Dominions.

And Cunts Can Fuck Off. Really. Childishly catchy, it’s a winner because of its explanatory tale starring Cope, a lost stone circle and an Irish saviour on a John Dere tractor. There are loads of barely-hinged tales like this. It’s why his shows always make for a great night out.

Back to the music and the home run: Pristeen crackles with Urthona-styled pedal mania overdrive, Sunspots is more raucous than fried, and the ‘too professional to be a folk song’ zinger World Shut Your Mouth shuts the door on a gig buzzing over with good vibes, as we’ve come to expect from this most on-it of performers.

Question is, will we ever see him with a band again, firing multi-instrument shots of widescreen musicality? Self Civil War’s unfettered axe breaks by Christopher Holman, who is Cope’s tech/support/accomplice tonight, tempted the idea that a band tour might emerge … it’s been a while since we had a gig like this, and maybe it is too late now, but a deep-cuts fully-plugged tour of his Head Heritage albums? Or something like? That’d be worth the travelling, no hesitation.

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