John Giorno



The Guardian

live review


London ICA

JOHN GIORNO is a "live poet" who had his creative genesis in the artistic melting pot of mid-60s Manhattan. He was the "star" of Andy Warhol's film Sleep, he's collaborated with William Burroughs and has rattled out 19 LPs, 10 books, many tapes and videos as well as instigating a famous mass communications exercise called Dial-A-Poem.

Two decades into his career he looks well, if not wealthy, and carries the air of an elder statesman of bohemia. His work still uses the rhythm and nuance of New York street slang and it unfurls a view of life forged in the combustion of alcohol, drugs and sexual energy.

His material has the effect of inverting the American doctrine of Winning into one of Losing. Giorno's people are glad to get out of the supermarket "without incident" experience a nausea worthy of Sartre while waiting for the elevator, recognise that "life is a killer" and believe that it's in filth, sleaze and garbage that the jewels of life can be found. His latest album is called A Diamond Hidden in The Mouth Of A Corpse and it's a title which aptly demonstrates his sensibilities.

Giorno's well known technique of repeating a line several times with growing volume works as a kind of vocal underlining. It allows a phrase like "nothing recedes like success" or "no one ever gives you what you want except by mistake" to ring out and lodge in the head. Elsewhere he tilts at accepted wisdom with "when I was 15 I thought I knew all there was to know, now I'm older I know It was true."

But the performance, while confident, lacked the real bite and cutting edge that the material yearned for.



mick sinclair

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