Review: John Cooper Clarke - Stockton ARC

Dr John Cooper Clarke.
Dr John Cooper Clarke.

Britain’s greatest living poet, John Cooper Clarke, showed why he is such an engaging live performer in front of a devoted sold-out ARC audience.

Clarke shot to fame in the late 70s as the original ‘punk poet’, his acerbic rhymes spat out with a scatter-gun delivery in his leary Manc accent.

Now pushing 70, and approaching national treasure status, the rock’n’roll Betjeman tempers his show with comic asides, wry observations and even bursts into old songs from the crooning age.

Age, and health, is very much on his mind as delivers his poem Bed Blocker Blues and tells a series of ‘doctor doctor’ jokes whose punchlines are all a variant on Asperger’s Syndrome.

It’s all the more salient as The Surrealist of Salford recently lost his old pal, The Fall’s Mark E Smith, who he supported back in the day and shared a similar poetic worldview.

The Lancastrian Baudelaire’s possibly best poem is Beasley Street, which, he points out, is always used in TV documentaries about Thatcher’s Britain.

But he notes that he wrote the poem, about social degradation and grinding poverty, 18 months before she was elected, and now wonders whether it ever gave her ideas.

Laughs aside, the Bob Dylan as a Northern club comedian delivers the poem with vitriol which makes it sound as relevant today as it was back then.

The Coronation Street Jack Kerouac has been revered over the years with the likes of Evidently Chicken Town appearing memorably in an episode of The Sopranos, and I Wanna Be Yours being adapted into song by The Arctic Monkeys.

Both are performed tonight to an audience that not only contains old punks, but lots of new, younger fans and all ages inbetween.

The Joycean delinquent returns to the region at Gateshead Sage in the autumn - don’t miss him.