But we’ll get to that in a second.
Part of the novelty of seeing John Cooper Clarke live at Queen’s Hall for us was not only seeing the man himself, but seeing the 900-seater venue completely sold out for a poetry gig in the Scottish capital. The Edinburgh poetry scene is booming at the moment, with events almost every week, and often more, ranging from open mics to monthly slams, slam poetry showcases, page poetry events, talks, book launches and brilliantly curated special events across the city (but in particular, at the thriving Scottish Poetry Library). These events are no stranger to a sell out - but they also tend to be at maximum 100 seats. To see a poet sell out a 900-seater venue was quite the reminder of not only what a poet can do and the wide audience they can reach, but also of quite what John Cooper Clarke did for the artform.
And what he’s still doing now.
The format of JCC’s show saw three poets warm up the crowd from 8pm-9pm, then there was a 20 minute interval before Clarke took to the stage to perform for a solid hour or so.
Toria Garbutt was first on. A West Yorkshire based poet with an album out via the acclaimed independent spoken word record label Nymphs & Thugs, Garbutt is punk to her core.
Mike Garry followed, a Manchester poet who explores the close relationships of a people and their city, and who brought a good few belly laughs from the crowd, before comic Simon Day, as character, acclaimed Yorkshire poet Geoffrey Allerton, came on to close the support.
Allerton is an absolute joy. The audience were in heaps of laughter throughout, from the basic absurdity of many of the poems - a personal favourite being about midges / mosquitoes - to the clever way Day plays with the rhyme schemes. It’s a laugh a second.
He followed with a string of jokes and haikus, hilarious and original, and a rendition of the famous poem Beasley Street, riddled with imagery of poverty, squalor and despair, which he prefaced by saying something along the lines of: “amazingly I actually brought this out before Thatcher came into power. I’m actually sometimes scared I gave the ***** a few ideas.”
He races through the poems, does John Cooper Clarke, as you’ll know if you’ve seen him perform. If you didn’t know the style you could be mistake for thinking he’s just getting them over with and getting away, and admittedly, a slightly slower tempo wouldn’t have gone amiss. It must be said, it’s hard to catch every word, but that’s John Cooper Clarke, isn’t it? You just need to listen close. He talks so fast and says so much that the whole event is a sort of blink-and-you'll-miss-it show at times.
The titular poem of his latest book "The Luckiest Guy Alive" proves a hit with the crowd, and proves he’s lost none of his comic writing talent, and ending with “Evidently Chickentown” of Sopranos fame and “I Want to Be Yours” was always bound to keep the crowd happy.
A night with John Cooper Clarke it was, complete with everything that you would expect from such an event. The stories. The accent. The punk look. The poetry. It’s all there. And as we said before, if you’re the kind of person who really wants to see John Cooper Clarke live, and who hasn’t done so before, then it shouldn’t matter what a review says anyway. Go see.