An optometrist could have made a killing among the multitude of horn-rimmed glasses wearing, sold-out crowd last night at Radio City Music Hall, who had come to see Pulp perform their first New York show in 14 years.
Pulp, who rose to fame in the UK on their anthem Common People, had an impressive career as art rockers before their monster-hit blanketed the airwaves in the early ‘90s and went on to produce the equally brilliant if much darker albums “This is Hardcore” and the sardonic “We Love Life” before calling it quits in 2002.
Reuniting for a European tour this summer, two nights at Radio City and a smattering of other US shows before they headline Coachella, last night’s show was one that was worth the exorbitant prices scalpers were hawking them for in front of the theater.
Pulp has always been as much about the stories, words and persona of lead singer Jarvis Cocker, as about the right rock riff and if the songs that they chose to perform from their catalogue was any barometer of mood, then sex was the chief topic on their mind.
From the rocket launch of Do you remember the first time? to Underwear with its passionate plea that “I’d give my whole life to see it/Just you, stood there/only in your underwear” to the sexual imagery of Pencil Skirt: “When you raise your pencil skirt/ like a veil before my eyes/Like the look upon his face/as he’s zipping up his flies.” To the unabashed arousal of This is Hardcore – “You are hardcore, you make me hard/You name the drama and I’ll play the part/ It seems I saw you in some teenage wet dream/I like your get up if you know what I mean.”
Looking gaunt as ever but greyer on top, Jarvis performed with the same frenetic energy as 20 years ago, throwing chocolate bars to people, bantering with the audience between songs, running up towards the balcony to sing Disco 2000 and working in choreograph with dancers on F.e.e.l.i.n.g.c.a.l.l.e.d.l.ov.e, while the band (much like the Pixies reunion tour) sounded as spot on as they ever have.
The fans might have rioted if they hadn’t played Common People, the song that Pulp chose to close their first set with. The story of a wealthy disconnected art school student who wants “to live like Common People” has as much relevance today as it did 20 years ago. Just transplant it the lyrics to a Williamsburg trust fund baby and you get the same effect.
The band encored with Like a Friend and Bad Cover Version of Love. Hopefully this tour doesn’t close the book on Pulp. They have a more interesting kaleidoscope to see life through than most of today’s bands and who knows what a new chapter would produce.
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