Dr John Cooper Clarke at Manchester Albert Hall

(Originally published on Quays News, June 11, 2016)

LABELLED as the “punk poet”, the legendary Dr John Cooper Clarke brought a feast of live poetry to the Albert Hall last night. Quays News entertainment reporter Natalie Rees went along…

The restored Grade II listed chapel on Peter Street played host to a sold out show, welcoming ‘The Bard of Salford’ and special guests to deliver laughs alongside thought provoking and sometimes silly pieces of poetry.

Mancunian Mike Garry greeted the audience filling the intimate venue, describing it as “the real Albert Hall”, before introducing Luke Wright to the stage.

Wright, from Essex, began his set by encouraging the audience to remember the story about when some holiday makers in Clacton thought they had seen a lion roaming around their caravan park back in 2012. This led him into his first piece, ‘Essex Lion’, a witty verse about how a domestic cat got mistaken for a lion by some drunken campers.

He continued by poetically reminiscing about school and name calling by bullies, before ‘IDS’, a clever poem about Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, using only the vowel ‘I’, which evoked applause from the crowd.

Award winning Wright continued with the perfectly delivered ‘Sue’s Fourteener’, a bitter sweet reflection on an old friend living on a rough estate. The set concluded with the heart-warming ‘Moonstruck for my Mrs’, which sent waves of laughter through the crowd.

The fantastic former librarian Garry kicked off his set with the engaging and timely ‘Spring Crossing’, before a fast paced piece reciting all the things he doesn’t wish to think about.

Garry painted a vivid image of past Manchester in ‘Penny For A Guy’, an eerie poem remembering the old Embassy Club owned by Bernard Manning, during which he leaves the microphone to whisper the words, leaving the audience hooked.

He continued with ‘Signify’, a poem for his school teacher Miss Macoombe, who he cites as sparking his love for language through her literacy lessons and proving an inspiration for his work. Listening to Garry is a complete pleasure, as he warmly illustrates the pride for his city through ‘Saint Anthony’, a call to the late Tony Wilson, one of Manchester’s greatest. Mike Garry is a Mancunian treasure and is sure to be remembered by last nights audience.

Comedian Simon Day took on the character of Geoffrey Allerton, a fictional Northern Poet from Harrogate. Dressed in a tweed suit and flat cap, Day (as Allerton) recited a humorous piece about the circus, whilst being fully committed to staying in character. The set continued with a poem about love, which again triggered laughter throughout the audience. Allerton, one of the characters who featured in Day’s BBC Radio 4 comedy show, concluded the set with ‘England’, a comedic look at the reality of this country, including lines mocking England football players Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.

“I didn’t know this place existed!” After a triumphant introduction and cheers of applause, Dr John Cooper Clarke took to the stage. The Salford born poet, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Salford, confessed the first section of his set would be about minimalism. Clarke, dressed in a trademark black suit and sunglasses, opened with a series of limericks before telling the story of how he met the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury Festival last year.

Clarke’s wit and charm evidently enveloped the set, with anecdotes intertwined with clever and funny verses. The infamous ‘Beasley Street’ came next, telling tales of inner city poverty in his hometown during Thatcher’s Britain, focusing on Camp Street in Lower Broughton.

This was followed by ‘Beasley Boulevard’, updating his work from the 80s to accommodate urban regeneration. Clarke sang Chet Baker’s ‘Look For The Silver Lining’ after describing how he’s getting older and society’s perceptions in ‘Bedblocker Blues’.

‘Trouble At Mall’, inspired by the town of Oldham came before ‘I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife’, a sincere but amusing look at marriage. Clarke performed arguably his most notable work ‘Tw*t’, released in 1979 and taken from the album ‘Walking Back To Happiness’, which saw the audience join in with the final line.

Clarke proceeded to thank all those that had helped make the show possible as well as welcoming the support acts back on stage, before performing the infamous ‘Evidently Chickentown’, which was featured at the end of an episode of The Sopranos. The night finished with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, which serves as the lyrics to the same title by Arctic Monkeys. Clarke noted the genius of Alex Turner and the brilliance of ‘AM’, the album which the track concludes and one that proved to be the catapult to send the band to worldwide success.

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