“I’m still stuck here,” Jarvis Cocker cries out as he walks on stage through a cloud of smoke. Remember the first time? Maybe the second time? No? Third time’s the charm, and it does for Pulp too, who after eleven years lying dormant, springs to life for another reunion. Anniversaries, mourning and bringing their best to a generation too young to hear them the last time, Cocker and what remains of the This is Hardcore lineup take to Bridlington Spa to massage their skills once more. I Spy sets the mood, with a menacing experience from the Elysium Collective string section as Cocker writhes and twitches through to the front. That is, then, what Pulp do for an encore.
An encore worth experiencing, no doubt about it. Testing the waters with their proposed Hardcore anniversary, the band are keen to throw the hits out there, people have waited long enough for them. Disco 2000 makes an early appearance, all those memories of spilling drinks in northern nightclubs come rushing back with Mark Webber crashing through on guitar. Where the quality of Pulp comes clear is not just in the songwriting, Cocker admits they had no worries about the songs, but the reception to them after thirty years of letting them settle. Make no mistake, it is as though the band never left. An unchanged vocal range from Cocker, who still steadies course on the inevitable and demanding work on This is Hardcore to the blissful Do You Remember the First Time?, powers through thanks to decades of experience.
Those common numbers, Common People included, are par for the course. It is what the audience expects and for many, the brief glimpses into the deeper catalogue will be of great, personal release. Weeds and Weeds II makes for not only a great revival of the somewhat forgotten We Love Life tracks but an essential bridge into a heavy-hitting F.E.E.L.I.N.G. C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E., demonstrating just how integral and consistent Nick Banks and Candida Doyle are in their work here. Chemistry does not come and go; it is just present when needed. However long it is between reunions or revivals, Pulp is one of the few which can flick this feeling on and off. Two encores later and a first-time live performance of the James Murphy-produced track, After You, and the feeling from and for the band is one of love and respect. Not a note put wrong, not a thing gone awry and the band handled their new period with convincing grace.
Dedications to Steve Mackey are well placed and even better received with a stunning rendition of Something Changed, an appearance which benefits from the straight-shooting lighting and stage production which surrounds the band. If this is what Pulp do for an encore, long may it continue. From the exhilaration of Cocker cutting shapes to Sunrise to the grand finale which gives Glory Days its dues, it is unfair to say Pulp are “back in top form,” as it is not like they ever left it. Pulp’s return to the stage, a long-awaited one after months of Twitter teases from Banks, lives up to the massive, ever-present expectations of those who cling to fond memories they tie to the music this band offers up. A little light on the Hardcore-era pieces, but with confidence present in these renditions, including a rare outing of Like a Friend, it is difficult to find fault in what was put out there. Don’t get greedy, this is already an encore.