Pulp – Reading 2011 Review

Loving music that was conceived before I was seems to be this passing hobby of mine. Friends and family will of course be horrified at my love of Britpop, but then I am aghast and fearful of their love for the Gerry Cinnamon’s and Lewis Capaldi’s of this world. One of the key downsides to a love for old music is that, well, the touring has dried up. Most have died or retired, but one or two are hanging on in there, hoping to kindle a nostalgic fanbase who are demanding, crying and shouting out for a reunion tour of some sort. Pup – Reading 2011 is one such response, to the sudden surge of rose-tinted Britpop memories, only a few years after Oasis had been shot down like the lead zeppelin it was and Blur had bounced back with a sudden reunion. It was inevitable that the best of the Britpop four would tour again.  

That is effectively what Pulp – Reading 2011 is. It is the reunion tour of my favourite band, one that has released classic after classic but are remembered only for Disco 2000 and Common People. Working-class anthems in their own right, deeply moving and well-constructed pieces of music that depict sex, love, club culture and the class rift between workers and wankers. It is great shock-pop stuff, and they sound as grand as they did fourteen years later at this Reading headliner festival. Hidden behind a thin veil, Jarvis Cocker opens Do You Remember the First Time in perhaps the strongest live recording available of the song, especially in the post-Britpop era. Apart from a slight change in pitch and a few extra bandmates, Pulp is as straight-shooting and sex-crazed as they were all those Thursday years ago.   

Cocker and company are on top form, as expected. He writhes around the stage for This is Hardcore, pulls the blazer and tie off for Disco 2000 and almost misses the final chorus cue for Bar Italia. The performance is lively and engages with the crowd very nicely, a surprising feat considering the scale of that sea of bodies. Flares are fired up (apparently the only thing Russell Senior remembers about this concert) and there are glimmers of a band returning to the peak of their abilities. Omissions are expected, but when Sunrise and Joyriders take precedence over B-Side showstopper Monday Morning or pre-boom classic Razzmatazz, then you have a show that doesn’t help the bands “two-time one-hit-wonder” public image.   

Still, with some great camerawork capturing the scope of the stage and the style of the sound, it is an easy concert to lose yourself in. Had it been offered the same production value as, say, Stop Making Sense, then Pulp – Reading 2011 would be a concert worthy of feature release rather than clip-show nods on YouTube. Smokescreens, laser beams and a camera deposited behind Nick Banks’ drumkit, there are simple, effective angles and production choices that outshine anything the band had provided on this return to the spotlight. They blew The Strokes out of the water, who had the unenviable task of following up an eighty-minute masterclass.  

“You are Reading. We are Pulp, and the song ends like… this!”, what a way to end a set, and what a way to round out Common People. If Cocker ends the show like that when I head off to see him in November, then that flicker of joy I have for experiencing live music will grow that much larger. I doubt he will, though, as Running the World has stapled itself to the frontman’s repertoire in recent years. There’ll be no chance of hearing Something Changed or Glory Days, for something has changed and his glory days have passed. At least we have Pulp – Reading 2011 to cling to. I’ll treasure the concerts I was too young to attend and will ride the coattails of nostalgia I never, ever had.   

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