Live in concert: Pulp thriller with poetry
For a band once labelled as the "escape party from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", Pulp are doing very nicely, thank you, writes Louise Gray. His 'n' Hers, their debut album for a major label, is sitting comfortably in the charts, and moody romantics have elevated lead singer Jarvis Cocker to the pantheon of rock's sex gods.
He has, of course, all the requirements. Cocker is tall and willowy, a dandy who wears an expression of permanent angst. Acute observations about love, sex, dreamy days and dreary days fill His 'n' Hers. The band play a glammed-up pop, halfway between Morrissey and Suede. Candida Doyle's seaside organ accompaniments and Russell Senior's violin provide languid, fluid lines, while drummer Nick Banks and bassist Steve Mackey give Pulp a solid, earthy feel.
Cocker has an unusual idea of the kind of rapport he wants with his audience. "One question before we start," he says before launching into the opening number, Joyriders. "Why are you here? To participate or spectate?" There is little room in the hall for the audience to express their full participatory intentions, so they jump up and down. Cocker finishes the song with a deep bow. "You see," he begins saying, "we want this to be an event, something that's unique." A thousand begin to jump approvingly. A lone voice shrills out: "Jarvis! I love you!"
With pauses only for between-song reflections about sex education and the symptomatology of Ikea shoppers, Cocker's jerky mobility evens out as the set progresses. Songs such as Do You Remember The First Time? and Lipgloss have a finely tuned dramatic impetus, and Senior and Doyle together add a swoony texture. This is the final concert on a short spring tour and Pulp's gang from Sheffield are all present. The sight of a journalist's notebook elicits some strange confessions. Gary wants to tell me that it is his Stylophone that Doyle is poking on She's A Lady.
The song accentuates what is best about Pulp. Cocker's lyrics are those of a home-grown Jacques Brel and his delivery develops the requisite passion well. Encores pass by gracefully and Cocker promises that Pulp will be back, "when the leaves are falling". It is a poetic goodbye that is entirely in keeping with the Pulp spirit.
In her book, Empire of Dirt - The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music, Wesleyan University Press (2006) p. 128, Wendy Fonarow writes of this concert:
The British record industry uses guest lists extensively. For example, at a Pulp performance at the Forum in May 1994, one quarter of the audience consisted of people on the guest list - a full five hundred people. There were eleven separate guest lists, with five different types of passes handed out at the door.
An audience recording exists.