Review of his gig in Vicar Street, Dublin, April 11th 2002
Julian Cope : tunsmith, modern antiquarian, musical scholar and all round bundle of weirdness. Since starting out with the Teardrop Explodes, he enjoyed chart success in the mid eighties with hits such as "Trampoline" and "World Shut your Mouth" before following a more mellow acoustic path in the nineties and embarking on a diverse writing career. He has authored two volumes of his own story, a history of Krautrock and a comprehensive guide to over 300 Neolithic sites around Britain. His previous shows here have been sublime (Kilmainham Hospital almost a decade ago), shambolic (Midnight at the Olympia - marred by hecklers and drunken indifference) and more recently, spoken word only. Thus, arriving at Vicar Street for "An audience with The Cope", nobody quite knows what to expect from the self-styled "Arch Drude". Perhaps a retrospective of his finer tunes, a sermon on pre-historic stone circles or maybe even the ambient experimentation of his "Queen Elizabeth" work with long time collaborator Thighpaulsandra (Coil,Spiritualised).
He stalks onto the stage in battle fatigues and six inch platforms looking to all intent and purpose like 80's tranny popster Marilyn assimilated into Star Trek's Borg. I am soon beginning to question the sanity of paying the (extortionate) 27 euro cover charge when he opens with a ten minute 4 chord, wah-wah pedal-driven frenzied intro to "Mystery Trend". After that, things settle down with a spin through tracks like "Robert Mitchum" & "Greatness and Perfection of Love". Whilst his guitar playing is limited, his vocals are flawless. Cope remains one of the finest live singers I have come across. One thing is for sure, though, he likes to talk. He variously banters on about how laid back Irish people are as we are Celts and English people are Germanic, his distain of the automobile (a full album, Autogeddon, written on the subject) and finds time to slag off old cohorts such as the Bunnymen and Dave Balfe. He has the rapt attention of a rather fawning crowd but the chat to music ratio is far too high for my taste. Every so often he says "I can hear my wife yelling 'Get on with it!'" I wish she were here, with a cattle prod. Eventually, he hits top form with the mesmerising "Fear Loves this Place" and other gems such as "Sunspots", "Upwards at 45 Degrees" and "Julian H. Cope" but then goes for a 10-minute crawl-about (I kid you not) through the crowd. Curse those portable microphones.
The night comes to an abrupt end at 10:45pm with Cope departing stage left. We look set for an encore when his guitars are re-tuned and returned to the stage but are disappointed when the house lights come on. It looks like a venue-enforced curfew and although he has played for over two hours, the set feels very truncated. No "World Shut Your Mouth" or "China Doll", in fact not much in the way of anything that has troubled the charts. It must have been a long night for anyone unfamiliar with the "Fried" and "Jehovahkill" albums. Overall, the gig is pretty much like Cope's career, patchy, brilliant at times, infuriating but always entertaining. A true musical maverick whose live outings border on philosophical pantomime, his die-hard fans (almost everyone here) love him and all his idiosyncrasies. Those of us of a more impartial persuasion leave bemused - not quite sure which side of the madness/genius axis we have witnessed - but charmed nonetheless.