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Julian Cope

CFF (continued)

He said that given the current Western paranoia for people with beards, he would add to it by putting his hood up. So he did. As he prowled the stage, he explained he'd just been to Armenia where he couldn't fathom why he was greeted by nervous people around him in Yerevan Airport. They explained that it was "a bad time to have a beard in Armenia." He then spotted some more beards in the audience, chirpily remarking "Good beard, man." Someone shouted to him that they used to be his neighbour. He looked, then said "In my whole life, I've had four neighbours...and you are one of them. Hello!" The whole thing was declared "spooky" before he realised several minutes had passed and he hadn't even attempted a song yet.

Approaching the keyboard, he hit a key producing a low drone. After some negotiation with the sound engineer, he pronounced himself happy with the drone and plucked a few experimental notes on his guitar. He played one song, not familiar to me, but the interplay of guitar, drone, and his almost spoken singing voice was brilliant. Then he prowled the stage a little more, chatting about his house and that he really ought to sing another song. This last comment was greeted by howls from the audience to the effect that they were supremely happy just having Julian chat with them for an hour or so.

As he wandered round the stage talking, I realised what was happening--he had no idea what to do next. He called for "a set list. Doesn't have to be mine, anyone's will do." A roadie appeared with a sheet of paper. A flash of recognition, he changed guitar to a lime-green Les Paul and launched into "Conspiracist Blues," a touching ditty of a dream he had about Madonna, Courtney Love, and Margaret Thatcher adrift in a lifeboat, hilarious as well as expressing his dislike for the first first lady of the UK (if you discount Boadicea and Liz 1, but you get my drift). A little less rambling and into the third tune, with some screaming guitar and effects. As the song finished I checked my watch: 40 minutes had passed in the blink of an eye.

I reluctantly left the pit and dashed off to snap another performance. Julian said as he took the stage, "I am the ultimate folk artist," and I see his point. I've never felt as much love for one artist there or such a real two-way relationship between stage and audience. Unconventional, strange, witty, angry, and in some ways unfathomable--a description of the British? OK, so I would need to add "reserved," but Julian represents that ancient sense of Britishness traced back to the pagan ethic, rather than the watered-down Imperial and Victorian version. Truly, the man is The Drude.   continue

 Julian Cope

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