In a different class altogether

How could Jarvis Cocker top his Brit performance? Easily.
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The Independent Culture
It is one thing to go on stage dressed, as David Vine was prone to when presenting Superstars in 1974, in purple hipsters and rib-hugging patterned shirt with albatross wingspan collars, but you might have thought Jarvis Cocker was in danger of irony over-kill when he chose to set the scene for his arrival at Wembley Arena by playing ELO records. Yet, with his tongue buried so deeply in his cheek he would need a JCB to excavate it, Jarvis at present can do nothing wrong: "Mr Blue Sky" notwithstanding, the performance Pulp gave on Friday night represented 90 minutes of unmitigated pleasure.

"I used to compose my own critical notices in my head," he warbled in the opening song "I Spy": you suspect even his own daydreams could not have been as laudatory as the plaudits he will be receiving this week. The point about Cocker is that after 33 years preparing for the moment when he could say, "We are Pulp - we are at Wembley," he was not going to let the opportunity go. So a fortnight after his attack on Michael Jackson at the Brits gave him the kind of publicity Max Clifford would charge a fortune to arrange, he played the pop star on stage to such telling effect it was physically impossible to take your eyes off him. In fact, so aware are the rest of Pulp of this centre-of-attention-seeking force in their midst, they withdrew to the fringes of the stage to give it elbow room. Thus for the entire concert, as he kicked out a long, long leg, flicked his fringe off his forehead or swivelled his hips in a frankly louche manner, his colleagues re-mained steadfastly in the half-light. No one threw knickers at them. But they didn't seem to mind: they clearly recognise a meal-ticket when they see it.

What was clear, though, is that Cocker is more than simply a camp frontman, wobbling around on heels that would be considered preposterous even by Cilla Black. He is by far the most astute observer of life to express himself through pop music since Ray Davies. His lyrics bristle with couplets like this from "Common People", the tale of a woman who made the mistake of pursuing him as a bit of rough: "Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it's all a laugh and the chip stains and grease will come out in the bath." Or this from the sumptuous encore "Disco 2000", which neatly subverts the name-revering tradition in pop songs: "Your name is Deborah. Deborah: it never suited you." The triumph is to marry these unconventional little dramas to a musical framework that fits. A task the team in the shadows manage every time. Song after song from the album Different Class sprang from the stage in all its rounded glory. Take the manner in which the hangover at the centre of "Sorted for Es and Whizz" was enhanced because the line doesn't simply suggest "tomorrow morning you come down"; it goes, in a sort of onomatopoeia for drug-induced depression, "and tomorrow morning ooh-ooh-ooh", pause, drum beat, "ooh-ooh-ooh", pause, drum beat, "you come down." It is the kind of wit not readily associated with Cocker's bete noire (or, rather, his bete blanche) Michael Jackson. But there was room for Jacko at the party, if only in a couple of sarcastic asides. "Unlike other people in this business, I do not consider myself the Messiah. So if you want to share this among yourself, it won't go very far," Cocker said, handing a bottle of mineral water to the adoring scrum at his feet.

And at the end, just before he had the entire Arena stomping through the vigorous crescendo of the new single "Mis-shapes", Cocker said: "Conceivably this could be the last performance I give before I am taken off. If I go to prison, will you visit me?" The roar of acclamation could be heard in Whackoland, or whatever Jackson's estate is called. Indeed, after pleasure like this concert, it would be churlish not to join them.