(Why bad form? Because I'm opening the show, though to be fair, I wasn't on the bill originally, and my compensation isn't tied to attendance, so the only benefit I gain from more people coming to the show is more eyes and ears on the good doctor's excellent work. Plus, I'm on first, at 7:30 and am playing a short set. You can even just wait in the bar till 8pm and not miss the headliner, if you like.)
Before I got added to the bill, I wrote the following text (minus an edit or two) about Clarke's show for the Spring A+P quarterly:
If you’re a devotee of the accent that emerges from the northern English city of Manchester (familiar to fans of Mike Leigh films—especially Naked—or the songs and interviews of the Fall, the Smiths, or the brothers Gallagher, among others), you’re probably aware that the dialect exists in its purest and most glorious form in the mouth of John Cooper Clarke, whose hilarious and cutting poetry was part of the original UK punk and post-punk landscape that forged all your favorite bands.
Unlike some of those bands, whose value may be more historical and iconographic than artistic, Clarke’s work is as thrilling, funny, smart, and airtight as it ever was. His best works—“Beasley Street,” “Evidently Chickentown,” “Twat,” “I Wanna Be Yours,” "Things Are Gonna Get Worse," etc.—communicate as much anger, outrage, disdain, and social comment as any Sex Pistols or Clash song without leaning on noise to get those feelings across.
They're also way funnier.
The violence lies in Clarke's adherence to form—his rhymes are tightly constructed and all the more satisfying for the verbal contortions they demand—and the sardonic sneer of his ingenious delivery. The 69-year-old honorary doctor doesn’t make it to America very often, and who knows whether there will even be a future, so if you're leaning anywhere near coming, you really should come.
I stand by that.
In the meantime, consider checking out a couple of videos of Clarke reading a few of his pieces over the past 40 years, including multiple versions of the one for which he's probably best known, "Evidently Chickentown," which featured on the second-to-last episode of The Sopranos: