The moment I stepped off the 16:45 train to Sheffield, there was a special feeling in the air. The reason for this was simple: Pulp were back in the city that they hail from and here to perform live for the first time in ten years. There were people of all ages in their finest indie clothing around Sheffield, heading for a historic night at the Motorpoint Arena. For many of these people (including myself), a life long ambition would be fulfilled tonight by finally getting to see the reformed BritPop legends live.
Whenever one usually enters a venue ahead of a gig there is a buzz in the air, but the feeling in the cavernous Motorpoint Arena was more remarkable than anything I’d ever experienced upon entering a concert venue. The hype hit me with a force like a tank, and Pulp weren’t even due on stage for another hour and a half! Some home movies by the band and laser messages kept the audience engaged as the tension built to fever point. Then at 8:25, the audience erupted as the laser read out the message “Right, let’s do this”. The lights dimmed, but Pulp then proceeded to tease the audience by allowing the laser to perform a propostrously long five minute monologue.
Eventually Jarvis Cocker announced “nah den” (in his South Yorkshire accent) and the opening notes of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?” filled the arena. The curtain dropped as the chorus begun and the arena erupted as Sheffield’s heroes were revealed to the 12,000 gig goers. The energy and emotion of the arena was remarkable; I feared that the energy levels might be peaking too early. However, I need not have feared – Jarvis informed the audience after ‘A Little Soul’ that we had warmed up well through the first four songs, it was therefore time for a little bit of disco: ‘Disco 2000’. This was a bold move by Pulp – they were unleashing one of their best known songs five songs in, but it worked: the audience were bonded together by this song and this attitude stayed for the remainder of the gig, thus keeping the energy levels high.
This was followed up by three more songs from Pulp’s career defining 1995 album ‘Different Class’. Throughout these songs it was clear to see Jarvis Cocker’s main strength, he may be a 49 year old glasses clad man, who dresses like a Geography teacher, but he really has such swagger. Throughout these songs, he marched around the stage in front of his band busting out shapes and connecting with the audience through his pure charisma.
This was of course a homecoming show and to make it extra special, Jarvis Cocker recalled tales of playing the city’s famous Leadmill venue in 1980, before taking the audience “back in time” to 1980. Pulp then proceeded to play three songs from their early career: ‘My Lighthouse’, ‘Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)’, and ‘Countdown’. These songs are rarely played by Pulp and were not known well by the audience, but the crowd still enjoyed the rare appearance of these songs, simply because of their rarity. The crowd were then treated to breakthrough track ‘Babies’, and again everyone crammed into the venue went absolutely ballistic.
As the gig approached its end, the attentive members of the audience noted an additional guitarist had joined the band in the shape of fellow Sheffield musician Richard Hawley. Hawley’s guitar playing added a superb extra dimension to the guitar heavy ‘This is Hardcore’. The penultimate track of the main part of the set was ‘Bar Italia’, which has an anthemic feeling and was written to be sung by huge crowds on nights like this. Finally Jarvis thanked the Sheffield audience and informed them that being from Sheffield was what gave the context for their “final” song of the night. The first notes of ‘Common People’ were almost drowned out by the roar of approval of the crowd. Jarvis strutted around the stage, the audience sung every word and Pulp could dust their hands off and consider their job very well done.
That obviously could not be all though. The band inevitably played ‘Sheffield: Sex City’ for the home fans. This was followed by Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley playing the obscure ‘Born To Cry’ live for the first ever time, which proved to be a very emotional and well played song. The encore concluded with a cover of ‘White Christmas’, including fake snow and then Pulp really were gone after almost three hours of high quality music and energy.
It wouldn’t have mattered where Pulp played in Sheffield, they were always going to get a superb reception, but they really made this venue their home and the ability to engage 12,000 people at once really should not be understated. Sheffield had waited a long time for this night and Pulp delivered in every sense: they produced a celebration of the city’s music that no one attending the gig will ever forget.
…Liam has been listening to Bruce Springsteen – Johnny 99…