We Love Life UK tour, supported by The Fat Truckers.
Additional percussion: Jason and Ross from The Fat Truckers.
There are no recordings in circulation.
"I live on the edge," remarked Jarvis Cocker, explaining to the audience why he had foregone a pair of shoes to go with his Man At Oxfam outfit. "Brincliffe Edge!" Once upon a time, a long time ago, a month rarely went by without a Pulp concert in Sheffield. But since then fame has intervened, making them a national name instead of a merely local concern. And this was their first live performance in the city for almost five years – the last time being at the Arena at the height of Jarvis's post Jacko-baiting notoriety.
The band later admitted being nervous beforehand, but as soon as they stepped on stage, it was clear the homecoming was going to be a triumph – even if the lanky frontman did get his poor bare feet all dirty. You get the feeling that if Jarvis – now based in London, like all but one of his companions – had just stood there for an hour and a half and mentioned Sheffield districts the quickly sold-out Octagon crowd would have lapped it up. But he did drop a few names – Hackenthorpe, Park and Arbourthorne Labour Club and the possibly fictional 'Intake Posse' all got a mention. And in between the chatter Pulp played some songs – although surprisingly not their biggest and best-known hit, Common People.
Even more surprisingly, they did Anorexic Beauty, a song from their early-day doldrums, to mass scratching of heads from those who had not heard anything pre-1994. Luckily, there were a few old timers in the gathering – for them it must have been just like being transported back to the Hallamshire or Marples in the mid-1980s. Or maybe not. The other band members – Steve Mackey on bass, Nick Banks on drums, Candida Doyle on keyboards and Richard Hawley and Mark Webber on guitar – are often ignored in favour of Cocker's charisma, but they proved they are an integral part of the line-up, attacking their instruments with gusto, while a spot-on sound system made sure it was all very loud and clear.
Many of the songs were from their latest album, We Love Life, an artistic triumph even if it hasn't sold as well as expected, while they also performed several old favourites such as Sorted For E's And Wizz, Something Changed, Babies and the bleak but brilliant This Is Hardcore. But the highlight of the night for many was Wickerman, an odyssey through the River Don, with poetic lyrics taking us to Forge Dam, Broomhall and of course The Wicker, where Cocker used to live and near to where – as he explained – he once tried to sail a second-hand rubber dinghy down the aforementioned waterway. Oh well, it takes all sorts... As homecomings go, Pulp's was an impeccable one. Let's hope they don't leave it so long next time.
At the after-show party, held – where else? – at The Washington, the city pub co-owned by sticksman Nick, Jarvis admitted to feeling slightly queasy before the show. "I was a bit nervous before, but I thought it went okay," he admitted with customary modesty. As for the decision not to do the song which catapulted them to national fame and almost to the top of the charts, Cocker explained that he and the rest of the group felt it was just becoming too predictable and boring to keep performing.
"We did Anorexic Beauty in rehearsals yesterday and thought it would be a bit of a laugh to do it live. As for Common People, we don't intend to do it on this tour. We're trying to get away from it and we don't just want to do what people expect." And despite the rapturous response from his fellow Sheffielders, Cocker also denied press rumours that he was planning a permanent move back to the city of his birth and inspiration for many of his lyrics. "It's something I've thought about, and I might at some point in the future. But not just yet."
Cocker's humour is a useful sweetener to the bitter pill of the set list, which is unforgivingly tilted towards Pulp's brilliant, but not exactly hit packed, new album. Even its most potentially poptastic extract, The Night Minnie Timperley Died (anthemic chorus, chunky guitar riff nicked from Primal Scream's Loaded) is about the radio-unfriendly subject of a paedophile child murder. Usually, when a band refuses to wheel out the hits, it's a worrying sign, indicating that they resent their fame and don't want to be liked. In the case of Pulp, the less familiar corners of their back catalogue are so good that you barely notice the absence of Lipgloss or Do You Remember The First Time? Anorexic Beauty, for example, is a song from the days when only John Peel and Jarvis' Mum had heard of Pulp. Laughing Boy is a song that even they didn't know, but I'm glad to make it's acquaintance. We all have personal favourites of course, and when someone throws him a fluffy pink oven glove with the inscription "Pink Glove", Jarvis admits that they tried that song in rehearsals "but it sounded a bit crap".... Not that the set is the set devoid of classics. It doesn't matter how many times you hear F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E., those sudden staccato stabs still spear you as sharply and and shockingly as a shaft of ice falling from the wingtip of a 767. The orgasmic climax of Babies ("My God!") and a chilling The Fear are also among many highlights...
(Both reviews copied from the former Pulp Online site.)