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Julian Cope / Henry Raby – The Duchess, York – Sunday 2nd August 2015

There’s not many artists I’ve stuck with over the last, um, 35 years. But Julian Cope is one.

Whilst contemporaries such as the Bunnymen seem to be releasing the same song over and over again now, Cope continues to plough his own furrow. I can’t claim to have liked everything he’s ever released (and I’m certainly not on top of the myriad of side projects) but Julian is always worth a listen. And, unlike the current Bunnymen, never dull.

Nevertheless before Sunday it had been over 9 years since I last saw him play live (although we did see him at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last year). But despite this two Scottish dates (his first in all that time) had passed me by for different reasons (three, really, if you include his Wickerman appearance last month). And after Sunday I’m regretting that.

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The Cope – Archdrude, singer, raconteur, stand-up

Although on stage for an hour and a three quarters, Julian actually only played 14 songs (and performed a poem) with the rest of the set comprising Cope as raconteur or stand-up. It might have been a disappointment but, no, not a chance.

Starting off with his regret that Scotland hadn’t voted for independence (an odd choice in England, I’d have thought) he quickly expanded on that to suggest that once Scotland goes, Yorkshire could be next, followed by Wiltshire! Thereafter he ranged far and wide over favourite topics and anecdotes even playing the occasional song. To be honest it would have been entertaining enough on its own but there was also the music.

Essentially a greatest hits selection, it was pretty much impossible for Cope to drop the ball over such a short selection from his long and varied career and reassuringly he didn’t given the quality of songs he played. ‘The Culture Bunker’ and the Peggy Suicide material were perhaps the highlights although the tune I’ve had stuck in my head ever since is ‘They Were on Hard Drugs’. There was also the novelty of hearing ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ in an acoustic format.

Certainly I was kicking myself afterwards that I’d failed to catch both the Glasgow and Edinburgh gigs but won’t make the same mistake again.

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Henry Raby

Support came via a short set from punk performance poem Henry Raby. His entertaining material ranged from the Beano to Emma Goldman and he was the perfect warm-up for what was to come.

The turnout was a little disappointing, although the fact that the original gig was cancelled at very short notice may have been a factor (and the stage lighting on Sunday was VERY bright). Nevertheless I doubt there was more than a hundred folk in the audience.

The venue turned out to be basement in Stonebow House, a Sixties brutalist office building quite at odds with York’s architectural heritage. It was slightly oddly shaped too for a gig (although probably ideal for a club) with large areas not having a great view of the stage and both the main sets of speakers being located to the left and right of the pillars near the stage. None of this mattered on Sunday given the turnout but I’m not sure I’d like to see a packed show in the venue.

Julian played:

1. I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In 2. Double Vegetation 3. They Were On Hard Drugs 4. Sunspots 5. Psychedelic Revolution 6. Culture Bunker 7. As The Beer Flows Over Me 8. Cromwell In Ireland 9. Cunts Can Fuck Off 10. World Shut Your Mouth 11. Greatness and Perfection 12. Friends Reunited (And It Feels So Good) 13. Soul Desert 14. Pristine

Encore: 15. Treason

Julian’s first two solo LP ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ and ‘Fried’ are re-released as deluxe 2 CD editions on 14th August.

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