The DLR was floored to find a way to sneak into the Wireless Festival last Sunday to see the 1990s mega-band Pulp (and others, like the amazing Grace Jones, who we missed in the process of fence-up-over-and-abseiling) take the stage in Hyde Park.
For much of the audience, listening to the reunited Britpop band evoked feelings of coming home, an anti-nostalgia: the joy of returning. The crowd sang along to every lyric, and sporadically waved their iPhones in the air, that modern expression of musical elation. But some members of the DLR didn’t have a first time to remember. And so the experience was one of exclamation points: amazed! at Jarvis’s antics. Alarmed! when he climbed a big box. [It was a speaker. Get out more. -Ed.] Thrilled! at the performance, and especially (of course) anything off Different Class – ‘Mis-shapes’, ‘Sorted for Es & Whizz’ (with its slight word change to make it London-specific) and the energetic ‘Disco 2000’. The band played with style and verve, the lighting was dramatic and in turns knowlingly retro and the crowd just loved the show.
The DLR, being a cerebral beast, was especially pleased by the band’s intersong commentary, and particularly the support of the student-fees protest. (For more on the education cuts, see the LRB’s coverage and this blog, among others. The cut to the teaching grant, not so much the rise in fees, is the most worrying issue to our minds.) And there was something incredibly topical about a crowd of people singing along to ‘Common People’ — a song about Central St Martins, the budget of which has recently been so slashed they have to move out of Charing Cross Road (this is not true. But they are moving out, in just four weeks’ time) — in what Jarvis Cocker astutely called the ‘backyard’ of Rinat Akhmetov, who bought One Hyde Park for an alleged £136 million. (We repeat: £136 million!) Cocker instructed the audience to be an annoying noise for the oligarch, and the DLR hopes he heard the racket. Everything old is new again – hurrah, in the case of Pulp’s reunion; alas, in the case of Tory cuts.
Cocker, though, did not seem that much older as he fannied and waggled about the stage in surprisingly high-heeled boots and a wire-thin frame. We loved guitarist Mark Webber’s outfit; he was clad entirely in Margiela, a shout-out, we are sure, to his new home within the art world (he is a now a curator of artist’s film and moving image work). Steve Mackey vied for the female audience’s attention, while Candida Doyle received perhaps the loudest cheers, presumably not in recognition of her gender but of her keyboard abilities. Props must also go to the rest of the Sheffield contingent, Russell Senior, not least for his occasionally jarring work on the violin, and Nick Banks for his stalwart drumming.
So, hats off to Pulp. Hats off also to the security guards who gave us a lift over the fence. We shall leave you with this nugget of logical reasoning: a first time is not technically a first time until there is a subsequent time. So how about it, Pulp, eh? When’s the next tour? It looks like they’ve got years in them yet.