John Cooper Clarke – the bard takes Salford by storm

John Cooper Clarke tour 2024

Image by Stewy Stencils Facebook

words Ed Charlesworth

Strolling on stage to the plodding squelches of a knowing trombone, John Cooper Clarke, the people’s raconteur, cut a sharp figure on Sunday, returning home to Salford’s The Lowry, to celebrate 50 years in the proverbial ‘biz’.

Supported by kitchen-sink chronicler Toria Garbutt and longtime friend, and fellow doctorate, Mike Garry, the evening was both a triumphant paean to Northern, working class life, and a scathing rebuke of the middle classes, Thatcherism and the national curriculum.

Twisting his way through a comprehensive collection of his work, beloved and soon-to-be-beloved, with monotone verve, The Bard offered his expansive flock of devotees an acerbic alternative to the usual Easter Sunday service.

Delivering each poem in prayer-like monotone, his familiar, distinctly Mancunian nasal tone echoed out across the hushed aisles with heft, the weight of Clarke’s mythic cultural status amongst Northerners blindingly apparent.

Half stand-up set, half spoken word performance, The Good Doctor segued between work pulled from 2024’s ‘WHAT’, and fan-favourite Clarke-classics like ‘Twat’ and ‘(I Married A) Monster From Outer Space’ with droll ease, using the time between each reading to stretch his improvisational muscles, allowing the audience brief peaks into the enigmatic junkyard of his mind.

Forgotten 1970’s mob-movie quotes, references to bygone, obscure Northern celebrities and unidentifiable accents tumbled out of Clarke’s motor-mouth at great speed, all blurring together to form the somewhat nebulous, but undeniably witty, connections between each poem.

One particularly amusing thread Clarke managed to weave throughout his just-over-an-hour-long set, was the availability, and unquestionable quality, of his merchandise. “I am known as ‘Mr Integrity’”, he drawled, “though you could buy a t-shirt for less.”

Having worked through the advertisement section, the ’Beasley Street/Beasley Boulevard’ duology and the aptly labelled ‘misogynistic section’, it was “time to roll the credits”.

Clarke invited Garbutt, Gary, his esteemed manager Phil Jones, described by Clarke as ‘The man who took me out of the gutter”, and tour manager, punk icon Johnny Green, back onto the stage, setting aside a sizeable chunk of time to effuse his respect for each.

Then, following this, and his recital of the much-lauded ‘Evidently Chickentown’, Clarke thanked the audience for listening, span abruptly on the heels of his pointed boots and marched off stage, ending the night on a fittingly sweary note.

But, all was not as it seemed, and, before the houselights had had a chance to raise, The Bard remerged from the wings, slowly strutting back across the stage with a new-found scarlet cravat.

“I was gonna milk the encore a little longer but… I came across some stairs at the side so just thought f*** it.”

Rapturous cheers went up from the crowd, which only increased in fervour as Clarke began to perform his final poem of the night, uttering that eternal line, ’I wanna be your vacuum cleaner’.

The applause soon transformed, however, into hearty laughs, as Clarke stumbled over the following line. Dumbfounded, he admitted he’d somehow forgotten it, and stepped away from the mic stand to reviewing his copy of the poem.

Beginning again with a smirk, he successfully bounded through the poem with zeal, once more thanked his flock for making the journey, and, for the last time, strode off stage to that lone trombone.













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