Review: Dr John Cooper Clarke, The Luckiest Guy Alive Tour, Grand Opera House, York, February 23

HE calls his tour The Luckiest Guy Alive and you could call it “the second coming of John Cooper Clarke”.

The barbed and scabrous Bard of Salford has been bestowed with an honorary doctorate by his local university; Arctic Monkeys covered I Wanna Be Yours on their AM album; Pop Art emeritus Peter Blake, of Sgt Pepper album cover fame, has done the artwork for Cooper Clarke’s new book.

That book, The Luckiest Guy Alive, is his first “for several decades”, as the suitably vague sleeve note puts it, and Blake’s image of the razor-skinny JCC towers over the support acts, Knottingley’s Toria Garbutt and Manchester’s Mike Garry, before perennial tour manager Johnny Green introduces the mane attraction for his biggest York gig in years.

In fact Cooper Clarke’s shock of dark hair is now covered by a natty grey hat.At 70, he cuts a dapper figure in drainpipes, buttoned coat and pale ankle boots; by his side is a typically battered notebook, his constant companion for new thoughts, and the aforementioned new collection of poems, from which he reads and plugs his wares with a salesman’s golden tongue and occasional self-deprecation.

Such knowing self-mockery is writ largest in Get Back On The Drugs You Fat ****, one of the new works delivered with the machine-gun rhythm that has been his trademark since opening punk gigs amid the phlegm in the Seventies, even if the fevered gum-chewing appears to have bitten the dust.

He tells stories, circuitous, even off piste, play-acting, yet somehow still sharp, and these acerbic observations on life, relationships, marriage and more, turn out rather more rewarding than the understandably carefree renditions of his worn old favourites, Evidently Chickentown and Beasley Street, that he reels off. Enter the merch plug, exit Johnnie Clarke.