Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pulp at the Wireless festival: the normal world seems very very very far away

I heard Jarvis Cocker on the radio recently, on his regular 6music Sunday show, claiming to be bricking it about performing again with Pulp after such a gap. Bless him, he needn't have worried. That man was born to strut and fret his hour upon the stage. Or perhaps that anxiety turned into the energy that fuelled his stellar performance at the Wireless Festival on Sunday. I knew it was going to be great when they started with my my joint favourite Pulp song, Do you remember the first time? Oh how we jumped up and down, and sang along. Throughout the show, in fact. I've never been to a gig where so many people were singing along, completely familiar with the lyrics. I reckon it says something about the appeal of those lyrics, and they way they conjure up such familiar adolescent feelings.
Deep in the crush of the crowd it was difficult to make out the figures on the distant stage, so the massive screens on either side were a real blessing. I could easily make out Jarvis jumping and gyrating. There's something of Mick Jagger in his posture and the way he moves. He seemed entirely comfortable in the between song chats with the crowd, reminiscing about moving to London, talking about the band's early days.  I never saw Pulp back in the day, I'd hoped to see them when I went to Glastonbury in 1995, but missed their set- that's an entirely different (and quite long) story. So I don't know what the band's live musicianship was like back in the day, but certainly today they're complete masters of their instruments, whether that be Russell Senior on violin, Candida Doyle on keyboards...oh, I could go on. I didn't know Jarvis played the guitar, but he showed himself no mean strummer on Something's Changed. The intro to Sorted for Es and Whizz got a massive cheer, and the crowd didn't miss joining in with a word of this classic of the chemical generation.
From the upbeat beginning to the set, Pulp slid into the sleaziness of Hardcore and Ispy, complete with writhing and heavy breathing from Jarvis. But they picked up the tempo again to end with the classic social commentary of Common People, my other favourite. That was a superb ending, with ticker tape exploding from giant party poppers and raining down on us, lights and lasers swirling about.
I always swore I wouldn't go to a reunion of any band, nostalgia usually just makes me feel sad and pathetic. But I was more of a triphop girl than a Britpop one, so I don't feel that nostalgic about Pulp, despite the inherently nostalgic tone of many of their songs, with their evocation of teenage crushes, lust and partying. I've grown to love them over the last few years more than I ever did back then. I can't believe that they're only back for a few gigs. I read somewhere that Pulp wound down their work in the early noughties because they thought no one was interested in what they were doing any more. I hope that the sight (and sound) of 45 thousand folk singing every word of their songs will convince them that they were wrong about that.
Grace Jones
I read that Pulp chose all the acts that were on at Wireless this day, and I was trying to think what link there could be between such diverse acts as Grace Jones, the Hives, TV on the Radio etc. And I think it was that they're all great at putting on a show. Especially her royal Graceness, the penultimate act. She burst onto the stage in a kind of velvet bodice, over footloose fishnets, and vertiginous platform shoes . There were gasps and whistles from the crowd when she turned around to reveal her naked butt cheeks. And then there was the pole dancing...which occurred whilst she sang La Vie En Rose, in a sweet and wistful fashion. I loved her version of Roxy Music's Love is the Drug, and the excellent Slave to the Rhythm. And there was bumping and grinding a plenty during Pull up to the Bumper. It's great to see an older woman enjoying, and flaunting her sexuality, proving that lust isn't just for adolescents.
I'm not going to review all the bands, there was a lot of guitary stuff going on which I quite like, but it did get a bit samey after 6 hours (we got there early). But I'm having a musical crush on Metronomy at the moment so wanted to mention them. For those of you who haven't heard their stuff, do check them out on YouTube, especially their song The Look. I was delighted to hear them play this in their set, it's such a perfectly constructed pop song. First you get a catchy keyboard riff, then the drums and guitar take it in turns to join the tune, and finally a really strong bass line comes crashing in. This artful construction is reflected in the band itself, which is a really tight four piece, of strong musicians.
Metronomy's music feels like some of the most interesting stuff around at the moment, a blending of synths and guitars in some wonky electropop that reminds me of jazz at some points. There are influences ranging from Prince to Sparks and Kraftwerk, combined in a way that sounds like nothing else. Their fans made me chuckle though, we got right to the front for this set and the people near us seemed to be real aficionados. They were all so young: sporting that geek chic look and making those jerky, robotic dance moves that look like someone having a fit. Funny to think in 20 years or so, they'll probably be going to a Metronomy reunion gig at a festival somewhere...

1 comment:

Gayatri said...

Brilliant writing, brilliant reviews. And I'm so please you finally got to see Jarvis live!!!
Gaya x