Following the release this year of his latest book of poems, ‘What’, Dr John Cooper Clarke performed from the collection, the publication of which also coincides with the artist’s 50th anniversary as the ‘punk poet’. Support sets came from Luke Wright, Mike Garry, Freya Beer and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Clarke delivered a setlist of his best known poems amongst the new works, beginning on the tradition of ‘The Official Guestlist’ and ‘Hire Car’. He also honed in on his northern background with the “predictable rhyming style” of ‘Burnley’, proceeding to mock the town as being full of inbreds. ‘Smooth Operetta’, written many years ago but which now features in ‘What’, is an advert for Clarke’s favourite pair of jeans – “Farahs: they cover your legs.” ‘Thug’ is a new poem, with seedy lyrics about an unsavoury character who threatens to “block up your airways with a secondhand butt plug”; to uplift everyone from this awful image, he performed another poem from his new book, the short comical quatrain of ‘Sir Tom Jones’.

He returned again to some classics with the horse racing commentary narration speed of ‘Beasley Street’ (and its updated regeneration in ‘Beasley Boulevard’). Clarke then spent a fair amount of time speaking about marriage, which he mostly negatively critiqued; a sentiment quite evidently seen in his dual titled new poem, ‘The Marital Miseries of the Modern Misogynist’ or ‘The Rime of the Ancient Marrier’, for which he got into a ‘misogynist mood’ with the joke, “What is the difference between Iron Man and Iron Woman? One is a superhero; the other is an order.” The poem, a lockdown tale about a weary husband who’s about to snap from the imprisonment of his “sugar trap” marriage, is both dark and humorous.

The post-punk bard did a quick encore of two more favourites, ‘Twat’ and a short version of ‘I Want to Be Yours’ before wrapping up the night and ushering people to go to the lobby to buy some merch.

12/03/24: John Cooper Clarke @ London Palladium.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.