"Give me some warmth", teases Jarvis Cocker, fashion-defying front man and, if you will, 'auteur' of Pulp, the Sheffield five-piece who balance precariously on the hairline between eccentricity and madness. Sporting a provocative spangly jumper pilfered from Crystal Tipps' wardrobe, and a pair of 'challenging' slacks, Jarvis is a man to make even Mark E Smith appear to be a regular client of the world's couture houses.
This is an important night. A new single is currently heading towards your local record emporium, and it is effectively, the Pulp 'comeback' following Jarvis' relocation to London.
Five years ago. you'd know Pulp were playing when the local supermarket suddenly ran out of Bacofoil and crêpe paper was harder to come by than an off licence in Riyadh. Nowadays, it's different. Pulp have concentrated more on stage presence than onstage presentation.
Imagine Engelbert Humperdinck playing with The Fall. Now relax a little more, and think of Vanessa Paradis playing with a child's keyboards, a psychotic David Byrne stabbing at an electric violin whilst, and this is absolutely true, Gordon Banks' nephew nonchalantly slaps a curiously small drumkit.
Jarvis meanders through the Pulp back catalogue before introducing the forthcoming Fire single, 'My Legendary Girlfriend', an odd song with a sublime '60s film score chorus. They leave us with, perhaps, the Pulp classic, 'Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)', the archetype of the Cocker canon. A simple, captivating melody concealing a disturbing tale of incest, death and despair.
Unlike the laboured 'we are weird' image of World Of Twist, Pulp are the real McCoy, a genuine oddity. Pulp stand aloof from the mainstream, masters in their own universe.
Pulp are quietly legendary. They very rarely appear anywhere, hardly release any records and are talked about a lot. They're hard to understand in every sense. Maybe only Jarvis knows.
Jarvis was there when Pulp started seven years ago. It's a distinct possibility that only one Jarvis exists in the entire world. And comparisons concerning Pulp are almost useless, so don't take anything too literally.
Tonight Jarvis sports a tight-waisted black jacket with huge collars. He looks a bit like Ian Curtis in the way he stands and the haircut. There's also a man on violin and guitar, a very young looking girl on keyboards, bass and drums.
The music has a breadth and depth and a scope that is massive. It's sparse, yet an epic sweep with roots in torch and country, and Nick Cave sometimes sounds like Jarvis. He half-speaks, half-drone-sings stories of loneliness and despair with a passion and conviction that reach out and holds you.
The songs have space and sadness in masses. Occasionally they fall to almost silence as Jarvis spills monotone words about, "Not even remembering what you look like anymore". One song cruises on a jaunty Casiotone cha-cha pre-set and still carries the power of the set. Violin sways across it and Jarvis moves side on, shoulders twitching like a diseased Jackson.
There's a competition to win the new single. But Jarvis wants no shouting out; instead he'll ask the first person to raise their hand after the question. It's fairer that way. The answer is "Roy Walker" and a "My Legendary Girlfriend" 12-inch is passed out then played live. Pulp are amazing.