live reviews: 'E's all right Pulp Cambridge Corn Exchange

'Once Cocker starts throwing what little weight he has around, he could give Frank Bruno a run for his money'
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The Independent Culture
While Jarvis Cocker was strolling through Cambridge before Pulp's show there on Sunday, he was approached by a lad who, he claimed, tried to sell him some speed. Across the road was a photographer, preparing to capture the transaction for prosperity (and for Monday's paper). Having been stitched up, as he saw it, by a tabloid, Cocker was not best pleased about this, and he told us so. I realise that the prospect of him getting tough might sound as likely as Pulp's weedy disco ditties swelling into raging rock 'n' roll behemoths that blacken your eye and steal your shandy, but we heard both during Sunday's show.

Cocker's build usually makes him awkward and graceless - he's thin as a clothes-hanger, tall as a wardrobe. It must be said that his stabs at dancing are just that - lunges, lurches, vaguing rather than voguing. (Impersonations tonight, as far as I could discern, included a chicken hitch-hiking, a man with Vaseline on his hands climbing a rope, and a crab with St Vitus's dance trying to walk in a straight line.) However, once he starts throwing what little weight he has around, he could give Frank Bruno a run for his money, and not just on the pantomime circuit either.

There was no stopping him. "If you are here," Cocker warned the offending photographer, "and we find out you're here... you will be leaving the premises... wearing your camera... internally." The band were ready for a scrap, too. They opened with the placid "Sorted For E's and Wizz" but after that, the gloves were off and the guitars were moaning. You didn't know whether to dance or dive for cover. Gone are the brittle, carefully embroidered keyboard patterns, to be replaced by pounding, recklessly garish keyboard patterns (none of which woke Candida Doyle, who was actually playing those parts). All you need say about Nick Banks is that if the Glitter Band had hired him, they would never have needed two drummers. He made "Lipgloss" and "Razzmatazz" quake where once they had trembled, and hammered "Common People" into your head.

But not into your heart. The arrangements were more adventurous than ever (with its haunted break, "Acrylic Afternoon" was more like the soundtrack to a serial killing than a post-lunch rendezvous on the sofa). But Pulp songs are largely exercises in recognition. Do you remember when you fancied your girlfriend's sister? Do you remember that rave in Hampshire? Do you remember the first time?

On "Underwear", the best song they played, the memories are refracted through a salacious third party, who not only imagines someone reluctantly undressing in a stranger's bedsit, but wishes he was there to see it. The band aren't always so intriguing. Their blandest number, "Mis-Shapes", takes a flavourless lyric and spreads it thinly on a musical water-biscuit. Most of the audience were swept along by the punchy beat, but you remained unconvinced that the song was anything other than lazy self-parody. Feeling excluded from an anthem for misfits - does that make you normal?