“It’s taken us a while, we know. We kind of took the scenic route. But the best things are worth waiting for, aren’t they?”
Never a truer word spoken, Jarvis. When Pulp announced their reunion two years ago, the expectation around Sheffield was that a homecoming gig wouldn’t be far around the corner. Yet after concerts in London, Isle Of Wight, and seemingly every festival in Europe, a South Yorkshire date remained frustratingly absent. Then, in July of this year, came the announcement that everyone in and around the Steel City had been waiting for. For the first time in over a decade, since the ‘farewell’ gig at Rotherham’s Magna Centre, the mis-shapes, mistakes and misfits were coming home.
Sheffield’s Arena can be, like most of its ilk, a rather soulless venue.Yet tonight it had the atmosphere of a cosy front room, with 30 year old home videos playing on a big screen as people streamed into the venue, and a green laser sending messages like “anyone from Broomhill? Right good, this”. Even before the first note was struck, it was a celebratory atmosphere, with 12,000 people welcoming home the finest band to ever come out of this region. At 8:30pm, the lights went dim, and after an agonisingly long build-up, the curtain dropped and we all remembered the first time.
Age has not withered them – Jarvis Cocker may be touching 50, but he has lost none of his charm and charisma as a frontman. Every song was accompanied by a high leg-kick, a spindly finger pointing into the audience, a spin, a twirl and a lascivious thrust. The rest of the band were less showy but sound perfect together, although there’s no sign of Russell Senior, with Leo Abrahams replacing him on guitar. Since their reunion, each set-list has tended to lean heavy on the classics. Tonight, given the circumstances, was a bit different. Although all the crowd-pleasers were there – Babies, Disco 2000, I Spy – Pulp also took us “time-travelling”. So there was My Lighthouse from the very first album (featuring Jarvis’ sister Saskia on backing vocals), the ultra-rare Little Girl With Blue Eyes, and Countdown from the Separations album.
Yet it was classic Pulp that everyone wanted to hear, and they did not disappoint. A incredible version of This Is Hardcore was a definite highlight, with the stage drenched in blood-red lighting and Jarvis virtually humping the speaker stack, while Common People sent everyone in the Arena predictably wild. Sheffield: Sex City was an appropriate encore, while the first ever live appearance of Born To Cry, with co-writerRichard Hawley guesting, sounded wonderful. At two and a half hours, 24 songs, and plenty of the patented Cocker stage banter, it was a long night, but only felt like five minutes. You get the impression that they could have played all night if it had been allowed, and it was only the roundly booed appearance of an harassed looking Arena employee that kept the evening to a curfew.
There was still enough time though for a five-song encore, including an anthemic Razzamatazz, a glorious Misfits and a gorgeous closing rendition of Something Changed. The latter was accompanied by an explosion of confetti raining down, snow-like, on the audience, in a suitably Christmassy atmosphere.
“I still get a bit scared when we play Sheffield. So thanks for being nice to us. I know it’s been a while, but we’re alright aren’t we? I think you’re ace in fact” was just one of Jarvis’ touching stage dedications. And we, Jarvis and company, think you’re pretty damn ace yourselves. Welcome home.