Julian Cope – Village Underground

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(Can’t find any video from the night – this is from another gig on the tour)

Why this gig?

I remember the Teardrop Explodes. I bought Kilimanjaro when it was first released and didn’t include “Reward”. I even saw them live once (supporting Queen at the Milton Keynes Bowl – they were great, Queen were terrible). I continued to listen to Julian Cope after the band split up. In the late eighties I had a couple of flatmates who were big Julian Cope fans so I kept up do date with his music for a long while. But I don’t think I’ve heard anything new he’s recorded since 20 Mothers in 1995. And I’ve never seen him live. Time to put that right.

Support

Support is from someone called Holy McGrail who plays repetitive music from a laptop while adding various other electronic sounds over the top. I don’t usually enjoy supports like that, but something about this makes this really rather enjoyable. I’m surprised to see that he’s been playing for forty-five minutes.

Headline

I’m really sure what I was expecting. I suppose I thought there would be a band. But the stage set-up made it clear that wasn’t going to be the case. It was just Julian Cope with a mike stand and a guitar. And it wasn’t his famous red mike stand either – apparently he auctioned that off about ten years ago.

I also thought that I might recognise Cope. But he’s a lot different to the pretty boy who appeared on Top of the Pops thirty-five years ago. I would have walked past him in the street without recognising him.

But once he starts singing it’s clear that his voice is as great as it ever was. Which is a little surprising given the amount of alcohol and drugs that he freely admits to in the banter between songs.

The set-list is a pretty good cross-section of his career. There are a couple of Teardrop Explodes songs and a good selection of songs from a lot of his solo albums. He does, however, omit some of his biggest hits – “World Shut Your Mouth”, “Trampolene” and “Charlotte Anne” are all missing. But we get great versions of “Sunspots”, “The Greatness and Perfection of Love” and other, less well-known, songs.

I’m told by people who saw him play ten or fifteen years ago that his performances could be a little chaotic, but there’s little evidence of that tonight. The performances are all spot-on. If you wanted to criticise you could probably say that some of the talk between the songs was a bit rambling. But I think that’s part of Cope’s charm.

I knew about a third of the songs. All of the stuff from the last twenty years was new to me. And it seems to me that Cope’s songwriting has changed a lot over that time. His songs from the 80s were often pretty sophisticated. A lot of the new stuff (“I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In” and “Psychedelic Revolution”, for example) is rather simplistic and repetitive. But I suppose that means you’re singing along by the time he gets to the third chorus.

If, like me, you’re the kind of person who has always thought about seeing Julian Cope live, then I’d say that this is as good a time as any to see him. He’s on top form currently. You’ll have a great night.

The set list is on Setlist.fm

 

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