Pulp, Royal Albert Hall, London

The people's favourites show they're still in a different class

Will Dean
Tuesday 03 April 2012 15:45
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Pulp's Jarvis Cocker on exemplary form
Pulp's Jarvis Cocker on exemplary form

Almost a year after Pulp returned with a run of heralded festival shows - including a delirious, unbilled appearance at Glastonbury - Jarvis and co are in something of a lull. Beside playing "Babies" and "Mis-shapes" at February's NME awards, this is their first proper show for seven months.

Cocker himself even admits he was worried they might not last the course, but you wouldn't know it from 95 minutes of his darting around the stage in Cuban heels.

This was the fourth night of Roger Daltrey's wonderful annual Teenage Cancer Trust shows at the Albert Hall. Cocker watched Paul McCartney's turn a few days previously and was inspired enough by the Beatle's rendering of "Blackbird" ("You know that song of his? Quite a famous one," he laughs) to revive the (literally) chirpy "The Birds In Your Garden" from 2001's We Love Life. Equally sweet is the first song of the encore when Cocker invites his sister Saskia on stage to sing on "My Lighthouse", as she did when it opened Pulp's 1983 debut, It. This is the track's first airing for 30 years.

But, of course, it's the songs that Cocker et al were once probably sick to the back teeth of playing that draw approving howls from the stalls to the gallery. The show starts - after a very tender introduction from Andrew, a young man with a brain tumour - with a scintillating, "Do You Remember the First Time?" and is followed by much of the rest of the canon from Pulp's regal period "Razzmatazz", "Something Changed", "Sorted for E's and Wizz" and, of course, "Disco 2000" and "Common People" a song so entrenched in British hearts that it can survive the irony of being bellowed by crowds just returned from the Moët & Chandon Champagne Bar.

Jarvis is in exemplary form, chatting amiably between songs - "I've waited my whole life to sing this song here. And now I'm singing it to you," he announces before the ever-malevolent "I Spy" and, as he introduces friend and erstwhile band member Richard Hawley for "Like a Friend" (Hawley stays on for the rest of the show) looks brilliantly at home on a stage he's somehow previously never played on.

There are touches of showmanship, the neon PULP logo that flickers behind the stage, Jarvis being armed with a night-vision camera and his ever-angular dancing but it's the music that leaves an ecstatic audience floating out into Kensington Gore in a fuzz of warm nostalgia. Even for those young enough to barely remember the first time.

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