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Review: Pulp @ Cardiff International Arena

As the concert began, large screens displayed a simple message: ‘You are about to see the 531st concert by Pulp. This is what we do for an encore. Make some noise.’

By Annie McNamee, Features Digital Editor

It had been over a decade since Pulp last graced the stage and almost twenty years since their initial breakup. Now much older than when they wrote their biggest hits and headlined Glastonbury, I wondered if the band would be able to maintain the magic that they had when Jarvis Cocker was just a lanky kid with eccentric dance moves.  

In front of me is a teenage boy dressed in full a very Jarvis-inspired getup - velvet suit, colourful shirt, and some great hair - standing with what I presume to be his mum and dad. His dad next to him has on an old Pulp gig t-shirt from the nineties; their excitement is palpable and infectious.

As the lights go down and a low drone begins to play, the crowd cheers wildly as a backlit Cocker rises through the stage like a Britpop Jesus, opening the show with the Different Class track ‘I Spy.’ "I do these things just so I survive. And you know I will survive," Cocker sings intently to the audience, his meaning is clear. Pulp are back.

The energy continues as the band go straight into ‘Disco 2000’. On one side of me, two men joyously link arms and shout every word, on the other, the young Jarvis and his dad are singing to each other. The atmosphere is befitting of the song itself: heartwarming, nostalgic. As the chorus arrives, confetti cannons erupt

After an energetic performance of ‘Mis-shapes,’ the tempo slows a bit. Now holding an acoustic guitar, Cocker tells the audience, "This is our most straightforward love song, people tell me they got married to this song, which is incredibly special." He continues, "Our bassist, Steve, died earlier this year. It’s not the same without him. This one is for Steve," before going into ‘Something Changed’, a slow paced love ballad. Cocker’s emotive vocals combined with the backing string quartet made for a touching tribute

"You know when you see weeds growing on the side of a building, and they’ve got, like, 1mm of dirt? I think that’s impressive. I’m with the weeds." He says, proudly putting a fist in the air to a roaring cheer, beginning the double bill of Weeds/Weeds II (the origin of the Species). With lyrics like, "Because we got no homes they call us smelly refugees," it isn’t difficult to understand the subtext behind his statement.

Pulp @ Cardiff International Arena | Annie McNamee

From there, it was non-stop hits. "It’s time for a rave!" Cocker proclaimed, as a laser light show lit up the arena, and Sorted for Es and Wizz began. Following this comes a real highlight of the night, as the orchestral introduction of ‘This is Hardcore’ waltzes in and the lights fall. The Sheffield singer indulges himself, sitting casually in a throne atop the stage, walking slowly upstage throughout the verse, arriving right by the audience as the chorus booms. Cocker’s flair for the dramatic is nothing new, and it is incredible to see him have kept his stagemanship thirty years after the band’s heyday.

"The last time we were here was in 1996, but the first time we played in Cardiff was actually much longer before that," he admits. "That time was in a bar, and anyone who was there will be able to answer this question," he pauses wryly as the audience begins to catch on. ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ Hearing the song live was as transcendent as you might expect. In front of me an elderly mother, who had been being kept up by her daughter's arm all night, somehow freed herself and began dancing, her daughter happily joining in. Behind me the young Jarvis seemed almost paralysed by excitement, his hand over his mouth in utter joy. Onstage, Cocker’s iconic dancing was captivating- you wouldn’t have known that he turns sixty in only a few months time. The excitement continues straight into ‘Babies’ and then ‘Sunrise’, before a curtain sweeps across the stage, leaving the audience in a nervous suspense.

It becomes clear quickly that there is nothing to fear. In the mood to treat the audience, the band would go on to play two separate encores, six songs in total, really taking the name of the tour to heart. ‘Common People’ receives an extended outro, where the band are thanked: "None of these people are common at all." Each member enjoys their moment in the spotlight, and they seem to be having just as much fun as the audience cheering them on.

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They leave the stage before returning for a final three song encore, the fan favourite of which is ‘Razzmatazz,’ which is welcomed with a whooping reception from one group in particular, who had been requesting the track all evening. Their wishes are granted, and their evening is evidently made. The band finish off with ‘Glory Days,’ which is accompanied by a montage of old footage.

As I leave, young Jarvis poses with his dad for a photo in front of the stage, subtly wiping a tear. The new generation of Pulp fans is secure.

Featured Image: Annie McNamee

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