John Cooper Clarke
The Arches, Glasgow
* * *
Attaining cult prominence in the punk era, the 63-year-old’s inclusion on the GCSE syllabus recognises that he is now something of a national institution.
More than a stand-up certainly, the Bard of Salford has settled comfortably into the current yen for live comedy, even if a few of his hoarier gags on the night were borrowed from the likes of Jerry Sadowitz and Nigel Rees.
The scrawny poet with the Mancunian drawl has funny bones, no question. And he’s unquestionably his own man, unafraid of praising the late News of the World.
Yet he appears to need the imposition of verse structure to stop him rambling, with one confusing reflection on the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland dragging on interminably.
“Give us a poem!” was heckled, and it was difficult to disagree. Ironically, when he eventually delivered Things Are Gonna Get Worse on the ageing process, having forgotten the words to Hire Car, it was glorious – spikily wry and pessimistically witty.
And if the brilliantly observed Tiki Shirt is representative of his newer material, then he’s as vital and accomplished as ever.
That’s no mean feat considering he loaded the remainder of his set with some of his best and most famous compositions, including the righteous bitterness of Beasley Street and its savage sequel Beasley Boulevard, before bringing the house down with the expletive-savouring Evidently Chickentown.