Monday, April 23, 2007

Jarvis Cocker, Webster Hall, New York City, 4/22/07

The opening band was deeply mediocre, and the main event was further delayed when the roadies spent 15 minutes puzzling over a malfunctioning piece of equipment near the drum kit. But all such concerns evaporated once the man hit the stage.

He wore a grey blazer, flannel shirt, black jeans and sported a truly awesome belt buckle (some pictures here and here) and his now-trademark big glasses. Yes, nowadays, Jarvis has the look of a perpetually startled college professor, but it seems totally appropriate, since the album Jarvis posits a worldview that’s both endlessly befuddled and deeply perturbed.

He just may possibly have the most natural and idiosyncratic stage presence I’ve ever seen. At 43, Jarvis still commands a crowd like he did in his prime. With his jutting hip and wild hand gestures, it sometimes looks as if he’s executing a highly elaborate dance routine that he hasn’t bothered to teach anyone else. (Sort of the opposite of the video for Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” which I’ve always loved since it features a large crowd suddenly executing a perfect, elaborate dance routine.) In between songs, his stage banter was charmingly rambling, and he seems genuinely interested in making an actual connection with an audience

The backing band consisted of a crew of stone-faced road warriors (including Pulp bassist Steve Mackey). Like the stone-faced thrift-store chic that the members of Pulp specialized in, their aesthetic wisely abdicates the spotlight to the frontman. Besides, if anyone else attempted any elaborate routines of showmanship, it would just be too much.

The best songs of the night were “Big Julie,” “Running the World” and “Big Stuff.” (The latter was one of two stellar b-sides performed. Like many Pulp b-sides, these songs were perfectly worthy of making it onto an album.) Those three songs had in common the rising swells of drama that have always brought the best in Jarvis as both a performer and writer. (“My Legendary Girlfriend,” “Common People,” “This is Hardcore,” “Sunrise” and on and on…)

I will continue to maintain that he should pencil more time for lengthier American tours and, yes, he should play a show here in Philly. In my own crazy way, I believe this album – full of guitar hooks and warm arrangements and generous melodies – has more potential in the U.S. than any Pulp album. Hope springs eternal: He’ll be on Letterman this Friday, for the first time since Pulp played “Common People” on the show in 1996.

4/22/07 Set List
(Thanks to PulpWiki for helping jog my memory)

Fat Children
Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time
Heavy Weather
One Man Show
I Will Kill Again
From A to I
Big Julie
Disney Time
Big Stuff
Running the World

Heaven (Talking Heads cover)
Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)


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