22nd February 1996 - NEC, Birmingham (live)


  • Date: Thursday 22nd February 1996
  • Venue: NEC Arena
  • Location: Birmingham
  • Tickets: £12.50
  • Support: Edwyn Collins and Denim

Additional musicians: Pablo Cook (percussion), Antony Genn (acoustic guitar) and Yvette Lacey (flute)


Everett True in Melody Maker, 2nd March 96:

The music, then...

Nah, not yet. Let's talk about sex. The anticipation, the tease, the slick Motown strut behind "Mile End". The way Jarvis constantly fiddles with his lower shirt buttons, asking roadies to bring on gaffer tape so we're spared the sight of his belly button (crowd: "Oooooooh!"); wraps his lips round the neck of a bottle of water in an intimate union that has everyone round me panting; screams girlishly in the middle of the psychedelic "Acrylic Afternoons". The way the opening synthetic chords to "I Spy" seem to last an eternity: the band poised, frozen in mid-air, sheer white light hurting our eyes. The videos of the couple ice-skating, the Moulin Rouge girls carelessly flashing their knickers, a pair of shiny red lips licking salaciously at a slender ice-lolly. The neon signs, the green-lit catwalk. The flute. The low sigh of ecstasy that greets the opening chords to "Sorted". The soul and romance behind new single, "Something Changed". The way "F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E." explodes into an orgasmic frenzy just when you're least expecting it. Jarvis' pout, his upturned, despairing eyes. The way Jarvis' voice curdles with pleasure on the lines, "Smoke some fags and play some pool/Pretend you never went to school" (surely the greatest couplet in pop music since The Pet Shop Boys' "So Hard"). The demented hip wriggle.

Jarvis Cocker understands fully that anticipation is the greatest part of anything - that's why his songs always swell and fade, roar and falter. The wait is all: the moment never quite lives up to expectation. Foreplay. That's all that matters. (Does this make me less of a man? I'm sorry.)

Sex. Yeah. Let's talk about sex, babe-eee. (I mean, f*** Jackson: he's as pathetically asexual as they come.) The direct challenge of "Babies", the sleazy intimacy of "Bar Italia". The welcoming sofas of "Acrylic Afternoons", the heady, funny recollections of fumbled lust in "Do You Remember The First Time?". "Lipgloss", with its implicit understanding that preparation is nine-tenths of the battle. "Underwear" (where, predictably, at least one pair of red knickers is thrown onstage - The Maker photographer's, I'd warrant). "Live Bed Show"... well, exactly. Lust, licentiousness and languid limpness in equal proportions.

No wonder the tabloids are so out for Jarvis' blood right now: for the first time in living memory, the UK has a pop star who is positively, sexually, dangerous. Even when he's not moving, he seems to be eternally hinting, perverting, corrupting... a flick of the eyebrows, a movement of those hands, a wiggle of the bum, and untold possibilities unfold before us.

How ironic, then, that the songs which have been chosen to make him famous are the ones least sexually charged, the ones which appeal more to the sexless lumpen audience and confused insiders ("Common People", "Sorted For E's And Wizz", the ones that tap so incisively into that warped strain of nostalgia which always appeals so greatly to the British population ("Disco 2000", "Bar Italia"). You suspect that some of the Neanderthal louts seen pissing in the sinks in the men's toilets tonight would f***ing kill anyone they saw looking like Jarvis on the street. They certainly don't want to be perverted - all they want is to be entertained, sated, same as they'd expect from a UB40 or a Wet Wet Wet. (And, oh, how satisfied they must be feeling by the end of tonight: the stage set is, literally, dazzling - seemingly lifted almost wholesale from the video to "Mis-Shapes".) As the sign which flashes so pertinently on the screen asks, "Why Are You Here?"

I'll confess: the songs I fancy most, the ones which converted me, are the populist numbers (I'd have killed for a song like "Common People" when I was young, while "Sorted" is so sad, so resonant, it's f***in' painful to listen to). But now I'm here, I'm f***in' loving it. Everything. Yeah, even I want his f***in' babies now. "What if you never come down?" Jarvis asks at the end of "Sorted", suddenly struck by the hidden meaning of the phrase. "It might be a nice view from up there."

It might indeed.

The mob will always try to destroy what they don't understand. And Jarvis, more than anyone, is The Outsider. I mean... the Gallagher Brothers? C'mon. Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart revisited. Damon is cuddly, loveable and hence dismissable. Supergrass are classic rocksters. Take That have split. Black Grape are too drug-orientated to be seen as a threat. Jarvis must be especially upsetting to the tabloids cos he looks so normal... "But he seemed like such a nice boy," you can almost imagine a thousand parents wailing when they realise just what they dropped their daughters off to see.

So, yeah. C'mon, babe-eee, c'mon. Let's talk about S.E.X.

The slow comedown of "Bar Italia", which I swear is the aural equivalent of a post-coital cigarette. The way the video camera slowly, lasciviously, pans up Jarvis' legs, and then, perversely, will refuse to shoot him below the hips. The teasing false ending(s) to "Mile End". The swagger. The stamina. The semen. The fantastic voyage/dream collage he takes us on in the middle of "Acrylic Afternoons". The band... oh no, I haven't mentioned the band! Can I just say I dig the band, the most! The way Jarvis cajoles us, creases us up, always pretending to be so innocent, so disingenuous, yet always intimating, suggesting.

"Let me make one thing clear. I did not go onstage and start shovelling kids over the barriers," he says, with reference to THAT incident, shortly before sliding into "Monday Morning". "That is not my style."

The way he drawls out those final two words, the way they drip so richly with campness and scorn... man, the tabloids would've creamed themselves. What, they would be demanding, would be his style? That f***in' perv. Not that they could have pinned anything on him, you understand, but they certainly would have tried.

F***, would they have tried.

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