Welcome to Pulp 201. Some prior knowledge of Pulp may be helpful. Students whose experience consists purely of Wireless, Reading and dancing to Common People in the university bar c1995 may struggle.
That's not to say this brilliant show at Brixton is just a tour round the early albums and obscure B-sides - far from it. It's just that, given how the bulk of the audience is made up of mailing list members who bagged tickets within five minutes of early booking lines opening, Pulp feel confident dusting down tracks like Countdown (from 1992) and Have You Seen Her Lately (which, although appearing on His 'n' Hers, still seemed to be a prompt for a few audience members to sit down and send some texts). We'll admit, we'd never heard of a few of the older songs but they still had the familiar, glittery loucheness that made us wonder: why did it take them until 1995 to reach Brixton the first time around?
Speaking of 1995... looking back on those distant times, that summer of Britpop, are we the only ones to think that Pulp's tunes are the ones that stood the test of time? Roll With It and Country House were not great even back in the day, and just look at the songs from Different Class: Common People, Mis-Shapes, Underwear, Something Changed. They still are still bloody marvellous, especially chimed and jangled out in such a great venue. (Indoors, people. That's how Pulp, champions of seediness and the night, are meant to be seen. Not drenched in a field, not even one in Hampshire.) Richard Hawley joins the "classic" (i.e., Different Class era) line-up at various points to further boost the full, rounded sound.
Even more splendid is the discovery that Jarvis's voice is still smoky, smooth and perfect. When Blur reformed Damon occasionally sounded a bit, well, rusty - something we didn't even consider until mentally comparing the two ageing frontmen last night. (And while we're at it, if anyone knows how Jarvis has kept his slinky snake hips at forty-bleeding-seven, we'll pay good money for the secret.) What has changed is his stagecraft; the poses and studied dance moves have largely gone in favour of hurling himself about the stage, caught in the moment. He looks like a man finally confident in his own skin. Though still fond of cheesy patter between songs.
Tonight's show is completely sold-out, but spend a few hours praying a friend with tickets twists an ankle and can't go because it will be two hours you do not want to miss. Or, hope Pulp decide not to make this their swansong. On this form, they could keep going til they're collecting their pensions.
Dodgy iPhone shot of the stage by the author