Pulp, Hyde Park – live review
Originally published: Clash Magazine
After playing to Pulp fans in Barcelona, Paris, Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight, this is the homecoming show that everyone has been waiting for. As old friends regroup and strangers exchange meaningful glances, the poignancy of opener ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ sends ripples of never before felt unity through the packed out crowd at Hyde Park.
Where some of music’s better-known frontmen may base their gargantuan personalities on hubris and bravado, Jarvis Cocker’s humility and candidness continue to endear him to his audience. And as he reclaims his status as an inspirational spokesman for a generation, subtly referencing contemporary issues like student debt and financial inequality (he sarcastically passes comment at the billionaires’ complex ‘One Hyde Park’ during the finale of ‘Common People’), his way with words genuinely engages him with the crowd on a pertinent, political and personal level.
In a relentless, high-speed chase down memory lane (occasionally swerving off the beaten track for lesser known favourites ‘Mile End’, ‘Pink Glove’ and ‘Sunrise’), the set launches straight into that undisputed Holy Trinity of Pulp hits. ‘Mis-Shapes’, ‘Something Changed’ and ‘Disco 2000’, all taken from 1996’s ‘Different Class’, ravage throats with a mass sing-a-long that threatens to render the group inaudible and the crowd broken, battered and bruised even before the first pit stop. But as Jarvis’ cautionary tales of hedonism in ‘Sorted For E’s and Whizz’ starts up, the audience is fuelled by an intense sonic euphoria and sense of reckless abandonment that comes with the heady days of summer.
The more down-tempo ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.’ and ‘I Spy’ admit a less frenzied response and allows for some much-needed respite, before the wonderfully nostaglic intro of ‘Babies’ chimes in. Despite the slightly unfitting dedication to Cocker’s mother and son, the crowd bash into each other in a flurry of reawakened adolescence. Poised on breathy, sexual tension, ‘Underwear’ erupts with its wild desires and as spectators undress Jarvis with their eyes, it would appear that the singer’s snake-hipped stage moves have only matured with age. Still, as ‘This Is Hardcore’ is introduced by a quote from Shelley’s ‘Adonais’, the track is given some intellectual gravitas to remind us that Jarvis can do both seedy and scholarly in equal measure.
Strategically edging away from the front of the crowd during the penultimate ‘Bar Italia’, the finale of ‘Common People’ induces a sonically emotional embrace between artist and audience, proving that its rhetoric has stood the test of time. And as Jarvis bitingly pits the unequal positioning of free speech proffered by Speaker’s Corner on one side of the park against the lavish excess of ‘One Hyde Park’ on the other (he also acknowledges the vital role that his time at Central St. Martins college played in the track’s genesis), it is clear that ‘Common People’ will remain an anthem of the people for years to come, attributed to a new cause by each new generation of music fans.