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Review by Jade Gadd
If you’ve heard this name before, then you probably understand the renown that comes with it. While the ‘people’s poet’ has a reputation to uphold for being a rock ‘n’ roller and one of the best spoken word artists in the world, the ‘Punk Poet’ is also humble and witty. Though his set has barely changed in the many years he has been performing – like a rerun of Friends – it really doesn’t need to. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! That said, whilst his fans enjoyed the poems we all know and love, it was nice to have the splash of the unexpected thrown in there too.
The show was a feast for the ears and soul, with two top spoken word artists supporting the Punk Poet himself. First up was Toria Garbutt from West Yorkshire. Full of life and engaging with her audience from the moment she ran onto the stage, in her High top DM’s. Her set was confessional, observational, honest and beautiful, with elements of humour to lift the spirits and offer hope. She gave us a whistle stop tour of her life in poetic form – from ‘First Kiss’, to ‘Alrate,’ to her love poem ‘You Enquired on my Behalf About Soya Milk at Breakfast’. Her honest voice was refreshingly truthful in a world of ‘fake news’.
Mike Garry came on next. A Mancunian and former librarian who crafted his art with youngsters attending his Library homework centre. His words have weaved their way into workshops in classrooms, prisons, hospitals. His opening poem ‘Spring Crossings’ was performed in an acapella song style. His line “Sea is cold, Sea is deep” was beautifully haunting, and rang in my ears and heart, days later… From start to finish his performance was as ‘smoove’ as the beer he drank and talked of.
A short intermission gave the audience time to recover and gather themselves. Excitement grew as the clock ticked closer to the legend himself. Being a legend is a lot to live up to, but we were soon placed in the very capable hands of the ‘people’s poet’ and legend of the spoken word scene. For over five decades, Dr. John Cooper Clarke has entertained audiences with his poems; he wasn’t going to start to disappoint now. All 630 of us were hit broadside with his rapid-fire style, an amazing mix of political, satirical, biting and vibrant words, which hit close to home for many. From what I could see, he managed to galvanize the whole crowd, which is pretty impressive given the audience ranged from late teens up to septuagenarians. At 68, he was as sharp and as smart as his suit, and – like a fine Italian sports car – he warmed the audience (and his voice up), before hitting the word motorway flat out, top gear, full throttle.
Like many, I hope, maybe some day, to effect someone with my words, the way John Cooper Clarke does with his electrifying poetic voice.