Concert Reviews
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Live Review: Pulp at London’s Royal Albert Hall (3/31)

on April 02, 2012, 6:00pm

How are you?
I want to hear you.
Make some noise.

I can’t hear you.
That’s better.
You’re looking good.
Especially you. Yes you.
How many holes was it to fill this place?
Ten thousand? Pardon?
Alright, no need to shout!
But you’re rather small.
Are you ready?
Really? One Question.
Do you remember the first time?

These sentences scrolled slowly across a screen at the front of Royal Albert Hall prior to Pulp taking the stage for the first time in six months; before that, they hadn’t taken a stage in 11 years. In lime green, Comic Sans font, these individual sentences sparked excitement in everyone there, whether they did in fact “remember the first time” or if Saturday night was their long-awaited first time.

Despite it being my first time, it wasn’t hard to gauge the musical and cultural significance of Pulp’s return. Judging by the age range of the crowd, those who were avid followers when Pulp was in their prime were excited to relive their experience. At the same time, I wasn’t the only one who was younger than five years old when Different Class was released in 1995. Yet, this PROPER reunion (the original Different Class lineup) made it easy to connect with the context of the mid-’90s even without having been there.

pulp royal albert hall paul hudson photography 01 e1342558260232 Live Review: Pulp at Londons Royal Albert Hall (3/31)

From opener “Do You Remember the First Time”, it was plain to see that Jarvis Cocker’s observational witticisms are still poignant. The pelvic thrusts and sexual lyrics seem tame compared to what we’re used to in today’s pop music; however, watching this 48-year-old strut around stage and moving his hips was still as rousing as I imagine it was in ’95. Cocker’s movements–from snapping into various theatrical and statuesque poses to seductively taking off his coat–would make any man in the audience nervous that his date would leave him to jump onstage.

The band powered through “Misshapes”, a tune essentially about taking power through words and music, showing that this group is still a band of misfits and that it’s possible to still be a punk while wearing a suit and tie.

“Is anyone here on a date?” asked Cocker. “Held hands yet? Kissed yet? In here?” he joked before starting “Something Changed,” which seemingly seduced every person in the audience. “Where would I be now if we’d never met?” was shouted along by the audience, with two people near me sharing an extended hug. It was adorable.

Even though the band had no new material, the show was still full of surprises. Inspired by Paul McCartney’s performance of “Blackbird” on Thursday in the same venue, Pulp performed “The Birds in Your Garden” live for the first time. However, while McCartney said “Blackbird” was inspired by race relations in the US in the 60’s, Cocker introduced Pulp’s tune as one about “a man who can’t get it on with his wife.”

pulp royal albert hall paul hudson photography 09 Live Review: Pulp at Londons Royal Albert Hall (3/31)

Bathed in red light, the band went through the trudging “This Is Hardcore”, as Jarvis laid on his back and raised his legs in a V shape in the air. “I’m 48. I’m boring now,” he said but couldn’t have been more wrong. “Bar Italia” segued into “Sunrise”, sounding as though it was going to be another ballad-like tune, yet the outro was thunderous, with mounted bass drum bashing included.

pulp royal albert hall paul hudson photography 13 Live Review: Pulp at Londons Royal Albert Hall (3/31)Jarvis gave a small speech before launching into the predictable last tune of the set, “Common People”. It will be interesting when the band comes over to the states (someone in the crowd had a “See You @ Coachella” sign) where the profound cultural rift between the UK and US will become increasingly apparent. While Pulp may be rife with astute relationship observations and insights on sex, much of their music is a rebellion against an English society that is still so divided by class. “Common People” is an embodiment of that, an indie/punk combination that riffs on the division between classes. However, maybe the US won’t care about that. Perhaps all that matters is that the tune has one of the most exhilarating climaxes, the perfect groove to jump to, and simply translates VERY well live.

The crowd cheered for an encore, and the band delivered. “My Lighthouse”, “Babies”, and “Disco 2000” ended the show. While the entire night might have been spent grooving in place or pogoing, “Disco 2000” incited a dance party from the stalls to the seats.

“Let’s all meet up in the year 2000” is definitely an outdated lyric, but why bother changing the words? Just like parts of the culture that existed during Pulp’s biggest years were brought with them to Royal Albert Hall, the timelessness of these lyrics was apparent as well. “Won’t it be strange when we’re both fully grown?” might have originally been about childhood lovers, but on Saturday night, that line was more about crowd members experiencing the song as both who they are now and who they were all those years ago.

And then there are people like me, the ones who missed Pulp when they first “happened.” With live shows as flawless as theirs, we should be glad they’re happening again.

Photography by Paul Hudson

Setlist:
Do You Remember The First Time?
Mis-Shapes
Razzmatazz
Something Changed
Sorted For E’s And Wizz
I Spy
The Birds In Your Garden
Bad Cover Version
Like A Friend
This Is Hardcore
Sunrise
Bar Italia
Common People
Encore:
My Lighthouse
Babies
Disco 2000

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