Live music may be temporarily dormant, our inability to leave our homes and shuffle into arenas or theatres to see the latest offerings of our beloved artists has led to adaptation. Fight or flight from the favourites of fans. Now that venues have been put in a state of horrid limbo, we look to the odd release here or there to get us through the drought, and no hit was bigger than missing the chance to see Jarvis Cocker live. Beyond the Pale loses its live opportunities, a blow to both the band and audiences. According to Cocker, the songs on the album were initially recorded live, so to see them in their true state is perhaps the best way to experience his latest work.
Opening on Save the Whale, the beauty of the cave and the production it can offer becomes immediately obvious. A beautifully natural background, accompanied by Cocker swooning in a deep, sultry voice as the rocks form in a blue luminescence behind him. As far as design goes, the cave is beautiful. Cocker’s proclamation that this album was meant to be experienced live rings true here, as his lyrics bounce off of the walls of the cave. Sometimes I Am Pharoh is proof enough of this, a song that completely explodes in this set, echoing through the high-octane energy, but falling slightly at some rather fast-paced, odd editing styles.
House Music All Night Long is the obvious highlight, as we skip to the second side of the album. Cocker’s musings on isolation and how the song has become an accidental catalyst to the mood of a nation. The funky beat of the clear highlight of Beyond the Pale echo through the cave system, a mixture of dark purples and blues illuminate a close up of Cocker, with a pitch-perfect projection of his finest song in years. The first side feels like the warm-up, completely blown out of the water by the half-hour mark. Not because it’s forgettable or ill-performed, but because the performers themselves look far more comfortable in these moments, leaning into the benefits of a more visually appealing, artistically choreographed set.
Without missing a beat, Live from the Centre of the Earth manages to hold together as a piece of live music. Masterfully weaving performances with some whispered inspiration from a crooning Cocker, it’s a surprising hit that makes for comfortable viewing. A bit of optimism and heart from Jarv Is has me in agreement with Cocker, that this music is best suited to live venues, and not to vinyl or CD. It loses the spark, but if he and his bandmates set out to prove that live music was far from dead, they do so with grace, style and homeliness.
Something I was lukewarm on at first, turns into something much more palatable. Far superior to the album it wishes to promote, this live performance showcases Cocker and crew with a spark back to his glory days. Pangs of Pulp, the janky arm movements, the beady eyes staring into the soul of the camera, an affinity for his surroundings that strike flashbacks to the Glastonbury headlining days, and the domination of the impromptu stage is there for everyone to see. It’s all there, and it’s glorious. An interesting project from an entertaining, eccentric innovator of how we can experience and indulge in music. Is this how live music will continue in the time of emergency? A reinvention of the wheel is unexpected, but it might be what we have on our hands here.