The Royal Festival Hall gave itself to Julian Cope for this weekend. His first act was to chop off the Royal. He then threw together the Cornucopea, his very own Horn of Plenty. Being all for that kind of thing, I went expecting a night of weirdness and got it, along with a free CD.
After a brief session of people watching in the eternal seventies atmosphere of the foyer bar (if only they'd had musak), Coil opened with a performance catchily entitled Time Machines with the slogan "the industrial use of semen will revolutionise the human race". Their last album, also called Time Machines, is apparently an attempt to time travel via use of hallucinogenic drugs translated into music. The new album is called Astral Disasters. I have never seen them before, although I am familiar with some of their intriguing sounds and knew it would be an unusual, possibly disturbing, performance. Years ago, some idiot told me that I wouldn't understand Coil because I wasn't a gay man. I dropped the acquaintance, but not the music. The performance involved white spacey hooded overalls, glowing purple rods, belching puffs of dark smoke, obsidian mirrors and torches while machines made interesting noises under an ever glowing symbol of a well-endowed horned stick figure. The journey of these alien space monks went through coccyx awakening rumbles almost becoming rhythms, moving to take over the head and voice of the Librarian of the Hall of Knowledge, Queen of the Circulating Library then erupting into a cacophony of sampled birdsong, and the end of the ritual. The bloke sitting next to me, who had eagerly watched Coil, hunched forward with his hands holding his face up, left at this point. Obviously he only cared about catching this rare appearance. A bloke at the bar told me that he was writing a review of the night for an e-zine, I revealed that I too was considering doing the same thing. He was under the impression that the room would be full of media types. I think he was wrong. The audience was a mixed bag of MTs, assorted hippies, Goths and others of all sizes, shapes and ages, and an unexpected contingent of old ladies in evening dresses - but perhaps they were at a function next door.
Resplendent in leopard skin leggings, titanic boots and a lot of hair, Julian Cope, towered (due to the boots) over the audience at the 'Fezzie' Hall, opening with an enthusiastically received Pristine. He took the hall, yes the building too, to Silbury, to honour the mother, in the West country as he sang Paranormal in the Westcountry and a song that seemed to be called Silbury Moon. He did not perform many tracks and it was rather a sprawling, mixed performance, but Jelly Pop Jerky Bean , Soul Desert and Double Vegetation went down very well. It was a mixed and spread out musical performance, the final track of the set accompanied by the keyboard player from Teardrop Explodes and an original collaborator of Cope's, Paul Simpson, on the vast pipe organ, and a host of whirling suns. His intersong chats were what most people had gone for and they were not disappointing. He described himself at one point as an incarnation of Odin, odd bringer of the ode. Fun, fun, fun. I was quite worried about my own brain by this point, particularly when I noticed that the theatre boxes and shadows lining the auditorium looked exactly like a work by M.C. Escher. Another break. More drinks.
Ash Ra Tempel
Ash Ra Tempel finished off the night. Cope had somehow persuaded surviving members of the German band to reunite even though they had not performed together in thirty years. All power to them for doing it, but I didn't really go for the ambient synth music the two guys played under a cosmic splatter of lighting effects. Could maybe be pleasant under different circumstances, was what my companion said I don't know what they sounded like thirty years ago. Not a hint here of so-called 'krautrock' and no strangeness. A lot of the crowd seemed pleased enough though. They dedicated the concert to their late bass player after a cigarette break that an audience (impatiently stamping their feet for an encore with no response) had mistaken for the end of the concert. I decided to retreat to the bar and walked down the stairs on the scarily hypnotic beige carpet of the Fezzie. A few people had indeed presumed it was the end and had beaten me to it.