“Stomach in, chest out, on your mark, get set, go…!”
I do remember the first time. 20 years ago, give or take. Another country, a smaller room, with folks that I still love but never see any more. Oceans will do that to you.
I remember the second time too. A Glaswegian green filled to capacity. We stood behind 3 kids who cried tears of joy simply because of this band onstage. They meant absolutely everything to them. And in that moment in time, they meant everything to all of us.
This time, the third time, we board a plane and fly 700 miles to yet another city, just to witness this miracle. Thank god we did.
Lasers welcome us. A standing ovation welcomes them, the reformed Pulp, to the stage. First, “Do You Remember The First Time?”. And we do. More songs… “Razzmatazz”, “Disco 2000” which Jarvis reminds us came out in 1995 and seemed futuristic. “Something Changed”, a love song which always felt out of place in the Pulp catalog, meanders past. And then through the manufactured fog comes “Sorted for E’s and Wizz”. This is a monster for me. I reel back from a flood of memories, my eyes welling up like a Scottish teen in 1996. “I lost my friends, I danced alone, it’s 6:00 o’clock, I want to go home”. Oh, the humanity.
More songs stutter out. “Acrylic Afternoons”, “Pencil Skirt”, “Like a Friend”. The natural born frontman couldn’t lead a band that sounded any better. This theater is a cauldron of fanatics, hanging on every syllable, hypnotized.
“Babies” brings back to me long forgotten details of my own life, another one, I used to lead. Jesus. “Underwear” is even more intriguing than I remembered.
Out of the blue comes a song from an album that I have waited years to hear live. I have always equated “This is Hardcore” to the final Soft Cell album. It was nervous, haunted, exhausted. It leered at you through the speakers sparking peep show visions. It crept and shuddered and shook. And in this moment, the title track is everything I imagined it would be. Unbelievable how powerful this is. 2,200 people are slackjawed in amazement. “Bar Italia” is a walk of shame that we have all taken, a party anthem for people who have partied too much. We are building. We know where this journey is headed.
Jarvis himself doesn’t even say the title of the next song. Just the initials. C.P. The room explodes. Not like in an “I love this song” moment but in an absolutely life changing, societal shift. All the air is sucked out of the room by the sheer pandemonium. This is a song that means something different to every single person in this place. And it has never meant more to us. And we forgive them for ever leaving us.
They abandon the stage. They return. “Glory Days”, “Party Hard”, “Mis-shapes”. All wonderful songs. They leave again. They return again. I cross my fingers and say a prayer for “Help the Aged”. I think it would be the perfect swansong. And at this time in my life, it means more to me than ever before. They play a song that is from their first album, one that they never ever play. And then they leave for good. Oh well. It was mesmerizing.
(Review by: L.A.M.)