Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Star rating: ****
Hooray for old age punks. John Cooper Clarke has, for decades, dutifully cleaved to his shock-haired stick insect appearance despite, he joked, coming off the cocaine to the derision of kerb-crawling hecklers.
He has stuck to his verbals guns too, delivering his age old mix of working men’s club humour – Clarke doesn’t even shy away from cracking “my wife” jokes – and bilious spitfire punk poetry.
Beasley Street was delivered at the lightning speed of a racing commentator or auctioneer while its follow-up Beasley Boulevard and Trouble at Mall took a linguistic wrecking ball to urban gentrification. Clarke also raged against the dying of the light in Bedblocker Blues and kept up the torrential flow with the incorrigibly expletive-ridden Evidently Chickentown but allowed the tension to dissipate on the almost tender paean I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife. Long may he grumble.
And blessed are the old age new wavers too. Squeeze frontmen Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are Clarke’s peers when it comes to documenting their environment and they wasted no time powering into their hook-ridden, ear-catching set with the jabbering Hourglass and the rollicking Another Nail In My Heart.
It was clear from the reaction that the audience was ready for a celebration with one of our finest singles bands - but first, some other competent business, in the form of a sampler of new songs from current album Cradle to the Grave.
Apart from the jaunty title track, these were mostly underpowered wispy nostalgic things, proffering pleasant easy listening about teenage curfews and the ritual of attending the match with your dad.
Tilbrook offered more trenchant storytelling during a solo organ recital of The Elephant Ride, while the beautifully eloquent and elegant country sway of Labelled With Love became the first lusty singalong of the night. A skiffly jugband rendition of Slap and Tickle and Caribbean-flavoured Goodbye Girl were also joyfully received by the audience, on their feet and revelling in a shared history.
Covers of Harper Valley PTA and Tom Waits’ I Don’t Wanna Grow Up were fair enough but couldn’t compete with the soulful pop flow of their own Tempted, the new wave dynamism of Pulling Muscles from the Shell and the galloping melodrama of their debut single Take Me I’m Yours which culminated in a musical conga line through the auditorium.