The Fleece, Bristol

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

5.00

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
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...