Review: John Cooper Clarke at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

IT's safe to say the home-coming gig of punk poet John Cooper Clarke got off to something of a sticky start on Saturday.

The Salford-born wiry-wit stepped out on stage to rapturous welcome at the Palace Theatre and as he looked down at his pipe-cleaner thin physique, he remarked: “As you can see, I’ve piled on the pounds.”

Everyone falls about before Dr Clarke launches into one his more bizarre poems Get Back On The Drugs You Fat ****.

I’ve since learnt this poem was a homage to a heckle he once received in Manchester after he reportedly gained a few pounds post-drug rehab.

Out of context, his thoughts about eating disorders proved a tad too edgy for one audience member who persisted in shouting: “How dare you” from the balcony.

But Dr Clarke — who cut his teeth on the punk circuit in the late 70s — took it in his stride and conceded: “Come on we’ve all had a drink.”

A recital of Beasley Street soon gets the night back on track as we’re led into the brutally honest, bitter and hilarious thoughts of Dr Clarke.

From ramblings about a three-legged pig to the surreal poem: “She’s got a metal plate in her head”, the bard of Salford proved he can still stun a room with his motoring monotone delivery and wry observations.

The refrain: “Things are gonna get worse, nurse” in Bed Blocker Blues brings home the marching inevitability of old age — a truth clearly eating away at Dr Clarke.

He actually only recites about 10 poems over the two hour performance but every one proves they still carry as much wit and candour as they did 35 years ago.

“Hire Car” and “I wanna be yours” topped the night for me.

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