April 11th, 2012 12:08am
What Exactly Do You Do For An Encore?
Pulp @ Radio City Music Hall 4/10/2012
Do You Remember the First Time? / Mis-Shapes / Razzmatazz / Pencil Skirt / Something Changed / Disco 2000 / Sorted For E’s and Wizz / F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. / I Spy / Babies / Underwear / This Is Hardcore / Sunrise / Bar Italia / Common People // Like A Friend / Live Bed Show / Party Hard
Unlike a majority of people attending this concert, I had seen Pulp three times before this show: A full gig at Hammerstein Ballroom in June of 1998, and earlier that week, a brief set at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Washington, D.C. followed by another three-song set with the band opening for Radiohead at an impromptu club show. (This happened! And Michael Stipe was there, and sang “Lucky” with Radiohead and an a cappella number on his own! And I met Jarvis afterward! This is a cherished memory.) I felt guilty, but maybe also a bit cheated: There was no way I was going to come away from this one with the thrill of having seen Jarvis and company at long last, even if it has been a long time since they’ve played together on U.S. soil. I do remember the first time, and the memories are still quite vivid!
Jarvis is a bit older now, but he still has it. He’s an extraordinary performer, in part because he’s such a specific character, and he’s so fully comfortable in his skin. I think the very best rock stars are the people who impose their quirks on to the role rather than conform to the expectations of the job. He created his own archetype, but he belongs in a pantheon of the great oddball rock gods alongside Michael Stipe, David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Stephen Malkmus, Black Francis and James Murphy. Watching him in action is inspiring – his sort of confidence seems somehow attainable, whereas more traditional rock, pop and rap stars make it seem impossible and superhuman. Even in his biggest anthems – “Mis-Shapes” and “Common People,” both of which presage the sentiment of the Occupy movement by nearly two decades – Cocker is at a human scale even as the music soars. Extremely lanky, yeah, but human scale.
Pulp has been closing out most of their shows on this extended reunion tour with a dramatic sequence of songs that goes like so: “This Is Hardcore” as a XXX dark night of the soul, “Sunrise” as a glimmer of hope just in the distance, “Bar Italia” as the come down and hangover, and “Common People” as the climax and resolution. This is a very effective and evocative set, but I was particularly moved by the performance of “Hardcore,” which seemed less menacing and sexy than the album version, and a lot more desperate and lonely. It’s a song about someone trying to will sexual fantasies based on shallow objectification into reality and finding the resulting action hollow and lacking, and though it certainly resonates today, I found myself wondering what this song would be if it were written more recently. What is “This Is Hardcore” in the era of internet pornography? Does it go to a more transgressive place, and does that place leave him even more empty?
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