As a massive Pulp fan, the chance to review Jarvis was one not to be missed. His wit, onstage patter and deference made this one of my highlights of 2009, if not the highlight.
Date: June 14, 2009
Venue: Rock City
Jarvis is in a charitable mood, handing out chocolates and grapes from the pocket of his neatly-pressed trousers to the fans in the front row. Later, he’ll refresh them with a few beers and what looks like a glass of sherry.
It’s an admirable gesture of generosity, and it serves to illustrate just how much Jarvis values his audience. Throughout the gig he’ll converse deeply with his fans, jabbering on in his thick Sheffield brogue, graciously accepting a demo CD skimmed onto the stage (“we’ll listen to that in the van later”), and comically teaching everyone the art of a Buddhist chant-esque solitary note which should be slipped into the heart-melting new album track Slush upon his hand signal.
To him, a gig is a way of getting to know people, and it’s extremely refreshing to witness in an age when surly indie kids hide behind their snobbery.
He’s lost none of his famous comedic magic either, and he’s as witty as ever. A skit which he performs while introducing Hold Still is observant comic genius, worthy of any stand-up comic on the scene. “Your parents always had sayings when you were young didn’t they?”, he enthuses, rhetorically, “Like ‘That’s summat else you’ve gone off'”. It doesn’t translate too well to the page, but his timing and delivery are impeccable.
He’s also lost none of his engaging eccentricity. Resplendent in his customary geek-chic attire consisting of a summery cream suit and charity shop-salvaged shirt – with a fop of messy hair falling over his NHS specs, wafting idly across his beard – his mannerisms, his robotic and strangley mesmerizing dance moves and overall stage presence is inimitable. He’s utterly compelling; and you daren’t take your eyes off him for a second in danger of missing one of his erratic, snake-hipped cavorts.
Indeed, set opener Pilchard – a largely instrumental thrash – is the perfect vehicle for his repertoire of crazy-ass dance moves. From here, it’s an illustrious jaunt mainly through his new record, Further Complications, galvanised by a full band.
Homewrecker! is a sax-fuelled orgy of sassy neo-punk (with added Kenny G-inspired quips from our funnyman); Caucasian Blues is a stonking anthem despite the inclusion of the much-maligned recorder, while Further Complications is the heaviest thing he’s written.
The murderous tale of Fat Children – from his first solo album, simply titled Jarvis – sparks a mini-moshpit by virtue of it sounding like a lost post-punk classic, while, in the second encore (yes, second!), Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time contains enough emotive power for grown men to form a group huddle and treat each other like a child would a favourite teddy.
Set closer You’re In My Eyes (Discosong) is a slinky, slow-burning disco love-in which, paradoxically, violates its promiscuous charm when a crescendo of discordant white noise develops, tormenting eardrums with its perverse sonic resonance, and sending everyone home with aching cochleas.
The halcyon days of Britpop have long since passed, and Pulp have been confined to indie legend status with little chance of reform, but there’s no denying Jarvis still knows how to write a decent tune, and his performance here serves as a reminder of the chart havoc he was once capable of.
He’s an indie messiah; a deity amongst men; a God-like genius in God-awful clobber. He’s an entertainer – a showman every bit as charming as he always was. And with his bequeathing of fruit he’s a source of one of your five-a-day too. What more could you want?