John Cooper Clarke, took to the stage at the Norwich Arts Centre once again for a two-night sell out tour. However times have changed, he is no longer on the bill amongst punk legends, shouting over a rowdy angst filled crowd, he is a legend now in his own right, headlining his own shows and ultimately making poetry ‘cool’.
He emerged onto the stage just after 9pm, hair wired upright wearing his iconic suit and rose tinted glasses. Opening with his infamous ‘set list’, his delivery of old but not aged jokes are made subsequently funnier buy his own laughter echoing behind him. It remains obvious that he has, in fact, told them on numerous occasions but still remains unfazed. His charismatic charm and bullet fast wit, transports the audience through ramblings of current affairs “Terry Pratchett wants to die before he becomes a vegetable, I can’t wait” to his own experiences and anecdotes which set up each poem brilliantly.
John asks for requests, but this is not a punk crowd. The people attending may of seen him supporting the ‘Buzzcocks’ or the ‘Sex Pistols’ back in the 80s but at this moment in the idyllic setting of the Norwich Arts Centre the room was wrapped with silence. It wasn’t until someone broke this with “do a new one” that the room ushered once again with the audience hanging off his every word, every hesitation, and every sip of gin and tonic.
Roars of laughter filled the room as he spoke his most famous works; Beasley Street, Hire Car and his personal favourite which featured on the Sopranos, Evidently Chickentown. His surprising modesty at the idea of an encore twisted its way once again comical gag, “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me back, but I have a taxi outside and the meters running” and in typical Cooper Clarke fashion he ran over his set time by a good 45 minutes. He is like a wind-up toy which when started fuels off people and if it wasn’t for the time restrictions I can imagine would go on into the night and at many of a time I had to remind myself that I was in fact a voyeur and not in my front room with an old friend.
“I have done a commercial jingle for the people at martini, hoping that they will offer me either a years supply or a lifetimes supply- which ever is greater” he chimed whilst dancing about onstage to S-EXPRESS in a Ronnie Wood facade. As the evening drew to a close there was a mutual feeling amongst the crowd, for last two hours we had been witnessing a man with no desire to stop what he is doing.
By Ruby Smith