Live Music + Gig Reviews

Pulp @ Reading Festival, Reading

23 August 2002


Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker

Festivals are rum affairs. A bunch of young people who are old enough to know better, risking either a soaking or sunstroke, forced to gaze at a pile of other people’s crap through the holes in the toilets and camping in such cramped conditions you have to down six cans of beer to ensure a few hours’ sleep.

And that’s just the audience. For the artists, it’s even stranger – bands of many hues grouped together in a musical hierarchy denoted by their placing on the bill. For Pulp, rather incongruously sandwiched between Jane’s Addiction and much-hyped new kid headliners The Strokes, it seems that the band’s proud stance as misfits is truer now than ever before.

With Britpop now well and truly dead, Pulp seem to have reached a zenith. While they may never recapture the heady days of A Different Class, with the bum-waggling on Michael Jackson‘s Brit Awards performance and the tabloid outrage at the speed-wrap instructions on the cover of Sorted for Es and Wizz. Pulp have now actually gone beyond musical ‘scenes’ and are a reference point in their own right.

The choice of songs tonight very much show off Jarvis Cocker’s incredible lyrical accomplishment; Live Bed Show, The Trees, Something Changed and of course Common People are so powerful that it feels as if Jarvis has stepped off the stage and is speaking directly to me personally. The subject matter, as usual, ranges from the seedy to the sublime (one minute he’s singing This is Hardcore the next he’s dedicating Something Changed to his new wife). The tracks from the latest album We Love Life are more subdued, but no less intense than the classic oldies.

And of course, Cocker’s wry wit can always be relied upon to raise a grin. “I assume you’ve brought a book with you – after all, this is the reading festival,” he deadpans before launching into Sorted for Es and Wizz (not everyone can get away with such a crap joke but with Jarvis, it’s all about the delivery).

Pulp’s performance tonight proves that albums, and even band members can come and go, but there really is only one Jarvis Cocker. Long may his ever-so-slightly eccentric obsessions continue to speak volumes to us all.

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