John Otway, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 5 March 2015

John Otway is a true original, frequently touring and sometimes recording since his first ‘hit’ in 1977. Like John Cooper Clarke from the same era he is difficult to fully describe to the uninitiated, but he has kept the punk ethos alive, musically eccentric and with added humour and a cult performance that has an incredibly loyal following (as he joked ‘sometimes there are people in the audience who have seen me more than once…’).

Bizarre cover versions of pop classics(?) ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’, ‘Crazy Horses’, ‘Blockbuster’ mix in with his original songs ‘Really Free’, ‘Beware of The Flowers’ (7th in a national poll to find the greatest pop lyrics of all time!), ‘ Bunsen Burner’ along with a Bob Dylan parody, headbutting the microphone, failed acrobatics and one-sided banter with Deadly, his onstage roadie.’ ‘Body Talk’, as performed many years ago on ‘The Young Ones’ TV show, features percussive body sensors and the wailing sound of the theremin is pushed to its limits.

It is all hilarious, he is such a likeable, self deprecating performer that even though you have seen it all before you will be there the next time too. The humour dominates but sometimes the emotional sentiment of his songs cuts through, such as the relationship aftermaths described in ‘Middle Of Winter’ and ‘We Know What She’s Doing (She’s In Love)’. ‘Poetry And Jazz’ is a longer detailed narrative of a difficult growing up process and shows his songwriting talent.

Sometimes described as ‘Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure’, I think his longevity proves otherwise…


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