Saturday, 7 July 2012
John Cooper Clarke at The Sage, Gateshead
CALLING John Cooper Clarke a 'punk poet' has always been a misnomer.
Take away his rapid-fire verses about urban grot and you have a man who is pure British music hall.
Think cheeky chappie Max Miller with a surreal, rock 'n' roll twist.
And a poem like Things Are Going To Get Worse would not have been out of place in Noel Coward's stage show.
The last time I saw the Bard of Salford was in a packed, sticky-floored Newcastle venue in late 2008, so it was good to get up close and personal with the silver-tongued versifier in the more intimate surroundings of Hall 2 at The Sage.
Although he's only two years away from claiming his state pension, Clarke's trademark bouffant hair, Dylan shades and stick-thin legs are still in place, although his lungs are clearly not what they were.
This means he leans more towards jokey social patter, with non-PC and very funny rants about Terry Pratchett, assisted dying and Hitler ("the first hippy"), which was fine with me.
But England's greatest street poet still found room for his finest literary calling cards, namely Beasley Street and Evidently Chickentown.
The man whose first paid gig was at Bernard Manning's Embassy Club, Manchester, in the smoke-filled 1970s remains a razor-sharp example of poetic power.