Jarvis Cocker, Royal Festival Hall, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

It begins as a wrap party, yet develops into something much more engrossing. As he points out, the director for this year's Meltdown has spent the past fortnight watching his favourite artists, but now it is back to the day job.

In a year packed with music festivals, Jarvis Cocker has ensured that the South Bank Centre's musical flagship has maintained its reputation for the unexpected, so the sight of Nick Cave singing Disney show-tunes ranks as a landmark alongside the live return of The Jesus and Mary Chain. It is fitting, then, that the former Pulp front man should close Meltdown by transforming his own music.

Before that, Greg Weeks, of the Philadelphia folkies Espers, led The Valerie Project, a live score for the cult 1970 Czech obscurity Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. This movie has become a totem for the folk revival and the Project's switch from beguiling to sinister provides a perfect counterpoint to its visuals.

There is little pastoral about Cocker's artistic return to his favourite concerns, social decay and urban alienation. He points out that he selected the film as it reminds him of watching films with his kids, something that also inspired the number "Disney Time". Like many tracks on his eponymous solo album, it lacks Pulp's immediate pop thrills - with none of the propulsion of "Disco 2000" or the anthemic pull of "Common People" - but no matter when his band's glam stomp comes to life.

Their chugging rock rattles around the still gleaming auditorium, which leaves Cocker free to demonstrate his immaculate stagecraft. The length of his limbs accentuates the pointing that punctuates almost every phrase.

Gradually, his backing group take hold, with a keyboardist making full use of the hall's improved acoustics on a grand piano. Then a choir and chamber orchestra appear for a middle segment that adds depth to his album's quieter moments. Finally, it is back to frivolity for an encore of Survivor's Rocky III theme "Eye of the Tiger".

This is a performance not to be repeated, though after tonight you want to hear Cocker rework tracks from his own album in a similar, revelatory manner.

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