The Fleece, Bristol

Simon Price on pop: We'll miss you when you're gone, Wilko Johnson


A farewell tour like no other, as the Dr Feelgood star hits the road

Raffles. Reginald Perrin. Sherlock Holmes. The Fonz. Ross from Friends. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Fiction is littered with instances of the protagonist contriving to attend their own funeral. Real life is providing a character as colourful as any on that list: Wilko Johnson. And, for all the misty eyes and lump-choked throats, his living wake is the most joyous celebration around.

As he stepped into the January sunlight after receiving a diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic cancer, Wilko Johnson has spoken of his "elation" and of feeling "vividly alive". Given less than a year to live, he announced that he would, while in relatively rude health, play a handful of farewells for his fans. The tiny silver lining is that Wilko gets to read his own eulogies. Here, without apology, is another.

Wilko Johnson is one of the true cult heroes of British rock'n'roll. Dr Feelgood, of whom he was main songwriter and co-frontman, came rattling out of Canvey Island in 1971 looking – and sounding – as if they were out for a fight. Precursors of punk on the pub-rock circuit, they brought an edge and aggression to blues in a decade when it had become masturbatory, and put the "rhythm" back into R'n'B.

Behind the brutish exterior, Julien Temple's wonderful Feelgoods doc Oil City Confidential revealed Wilko as an erudite aesthete and a bit of a dandy on the quiet, with a glass dome in his roof for watching the stars. Tonight, though, he's on duty. The self-confessed "show-off" gives us the psycho stare (the one that landed him the part as the executioner in Game of Thrones), the pigeon-necked jut, the amphetamine sulphate shuffle and the clockwork-duck walk, machine-gunning us with the headstock of his 1962 Telecaster.

Johnson's trademark "skittering" guitar style – metronomically strumming with his right hand while alternately pressing and damping the chords with his left – is as distinctive as Bo Diddley's. Backed by drummer Dylan Howe and Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Roy, he attacks badass-blooze classics such as "Roxette" and "She Does It Right" with gusto.

Wilko is not a sentimental man. There's no valedictory speech, but he has enough showbiz in his bones to milk the situation just a little. The couplet "I may be right, I may be wrong/But I bet you're gonna miss me when I'm gone" is delivered with pointed emphasis.

For the encore of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny", he has the whole place chanting "bye bye, bye bye". A great man and a great musician, Johnson's final gift is to share his aliveness and elation with the rest of us. For that, Wilko, thank you and bye bye.

Wanna feel old? Then watch The Big Reunion, the ITV series in which pop acts of the late Nineties and early Noughties are reconvened before your eyes. Nearly everyone had fallen out and many had developed drug and alcohol issues.It's all smiles, though, for the concert of the TV show (Hammersmith Apollo, London ***). Atomic Kitten's Kerry Katona is, according to my inner decibel meter, the biggest draw, while her day-glo sidekicks are merely anonymous Cheshire landowners. I've nothing but admiration for the way a working-class girl has parlayed a brief pop career into an endlessly lucrative living as a reality star.

If you want a shock, look up 911's chart stats. For two years the boy trio were massive – according to tonight's show – thanks to a succession of dismal disco covers and ballads. The turn of the millennium was clearly a dark time for pop.

The group who top the bill, 5ive, are ludicrous – "wiggy wiggy, I'm getting jiggy" is an actual lyric – but "If Ya Gettin' Down" has Hammersmith on its feet. No matter that it's delivered by a bunch of blokes pretending to be 5ive. Essentially, that's what they now are.

Critic's Choice

My Bloody Valentine follow their excellent comeback album MBV with a short UK tour starting at the Academy, Birmingham (Fri) and Barrowlands, Glasgow (Sat). Meanwhile, Belgian mixmasters 2ManyDJs (aka Soulwax) bring their audio-visual mash-ups to Sub89, Reading (Fri) and Concorde 2, Brighton (Sat).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?