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- Jarvis Cocker »
Jarvis Cocker. In Sheffield. For two nights only. This, folks, is a big deal for the people of South Yorkshire - or so you would have thought. Of course, there are many in tonight's crowd who hang off the singer's every word but there's an equal number who seem not to care about the songs he's playing, or his witty repartee in the gaps between them.
No, they're too busy chatting, discussing their plans for the weekend or the price of drinks at the bar... whatever, it's a wholly unwelcome distraction. We (and I use the term collectively, for the three in our group) lose patience quickly and move to somewhere that offers an inferior view but an unhindered listen.
Before the migration, however, a snippet of conversation is overheard that almost causes me to lose faith in humanity: "That girl over there just told me to be quiet, said she's paid 18 quid for a ticket and doesn't want to hear me talking over Jarvis. Well, we haven't paid to get in so we can talk all we want." The mind boggles, it really does.
To the music, though, because unlike said ligger I'm actually here as a fan. Of Pulp, that almost goes without saying, but also of Cocker's solo work which I've recently reacquainted myself with. The verdict: he's still got it, and from the moment the five-piece band strike up the garage-rock crunch of album highlight 'Fat Children', the entire, overfilled room is in the palm of his hands.
It's the charisma, the energy, the showmanship - all the things you can't teach at any school of rock or fame academy - that makes him as vital a performer now as he ever was. The term 'legend' shouldn't be used lightly, but in anybody's book the gangly figure in front of us can't accurately be described as anything else.
Age might have taken its toll in some respects, but he's still got the moves: from high-kicks and jumps to his trademark spasmodic dancing, it's like he's never been away. The enthusiasm with which he delivers the songs suggest the break did him good: 'Black Magic', which ends the set proper, is delivered with the kind of verve you'd expect from a man half his age.
The new material bares little resemblance to much of the Pulp canon but in terms of quality there are songs tonight that wouldn't sit out of place next to the likes of 'Do You Remember The First Time?' and 'Babies'. 'I Will Kill Again', for instance, and current single 'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time' showcase an almost orchestral widescreen pop vision as well as a musical maturity.
'Cunts Are Still Running The World', tucked away at the end of the LP and saved for tonight's encore, is perhaps the sole concession to the kind of biting social commentary that provided the spark for much of his old band's output. Of course, it's all too relevant today: tonight it's dedicated to David Cameron, but if Jarvis had been standing where we were earlier, he might well have had a different target for his vitriol...
Photograph by Gary Wolstenholme
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