Julian Cope at Whelan’s – Review
The near 40 year spanning career of Staffordshire artist Julian Cope has been an interesting one to say the least. From leading post punk pioneers The Teardrop Explodes to putting out over 25 solo albums (some of which only available through mail order), to finding his passion in neolithic structures and writing his bestseller “The Modern Antiquarian,” there is certainly more to this man than meets the eye.
As a packed out crowd in Whelan’s eagerly await Mr. Cope’s arrival, he finally struts on stage, dressed like a member of Hell’s Angels. His charisma and huge personality shine through from the start, as he energetically jumps into his first song of the night, ‘I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In’. The quality of his vocals are outstanding, arguably as good as on record. After a captivating monologue about his past in The Teardrop Explodes, he launches into old fan favourite, ‘The Culture Bunker’, exhibiting a remarkable falsetto. After only two songs, he has the crowd truly enthralled. Again, his vocal work and solo guitar fall nothing short of magnificent. It becomes quickly apparent that Julian is a truly great story teller as well as artist. Every song has a brilliantly told tale behind it, which makes the tunes all the more enjoyable to listen to. After blazing through a few golden oldies such as ‘Double Vegetation’, and the ever catchy ‘Sunspots’, he begins revealing a few more recent tracks.
Cope’s dealings with psychedelic drugs throughout the 80’s and 90’s are explored in detail throughout the night, as he frequently would joke about his experiences and reveal their impact on his songwriting. Tracks from more recent albums Psychedelic Revolution and Revolutionary Suicide are clearly less known, but nevertheless get a fantastic reaction due to his inspiring crowd interaction, especially the lament to his future death, ‘As The Beer Flows Over Me’. The immense ‘Great Dominions’ follows, which proves to be the highlight of the set thus far. Cope’s extraordinary story telling skills combined with the sonic beauty of his heavily distorted 12 string guitar put the audience in a trance like state that seems to last forever. The refrain of ‘Mommy I’ve Been Fighting Again’ resonates with the crowd, adding to the mellow atmosphere created. The fuzzy wall of sound disappears, and the crowd again go wild for such an experience.
After the righteous folk tune ‘Cromwell in Ireland’, and the confusingly pleasant singalong, ‘Cunts can Fuck Off’, Cope begins to wrap up the set. After being told he was fast approaching curfew, a short poem commenting on his scepticism towards the reunion of bands these days is followed by captivating renditions of fan favourites, ‘The Greatness and Perfection of Love’ and ‘Pristine’, featuring more soaring falsetto. Before departing, Cope blasts through the anthem ‘Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed’, which evokes chanting and foot stamping left right and centre. Then he is gone, which the crowd simply won’t accept. Despite being over curfew, Saint Julian returns onstage, wearing a smile that is as charming as ever. After one final adieu, we are treated to a final crowd pleaser, The Teardrop Explods’s epic ‘Treason’. Cope delivers this final performance with gusto and passion, as the congregation shout “It’s just a story” repeatedly in the uplifting chorus.
Tonight’s performance solidifies Julian Cope as one of the most endearing figures of rock and roll to emerge from the 80s. Going through just about everything an artist can, he emerges victorious. His vocals and charismatic behaviour shine through, and easily win the crowd over. He has easily outdone many of his contemporaries, both live and on record. He appears unpretentious and genuine, and most importantly, a seriously competent live performer.
Review by Finn O’Reilly