Flat-pack furniture springs to mind when thinking of Pulp. Not just for the love of modern shopping centres and dressing tables but the uniformed Swedish lads in front, off their nut and muttering something about how good a gig it is partway through every song. That gig is Pulp’s 528th, as a flash of the screen shows the sold-out crowd before they arrive on the stage, the warm air a real treat for a band whose trajectory to a millennium of shows is on track. What a show it is, and what an encore they provide for the faithful fans who held out hope of another reunion. This is Hardcore is not as celebrated as it should be, nor was it back at the time of its original release, but the slight nervousness about the material and time still shows up on stage.
Perhaps that is why Jarvis Cocker and company keep themselves away from the deeper cuts of the album they are back together to celebrate. Twenty-five years on from the seminal work and they tuck the title track in there along with soft United States hit Like a Friend. An interesting duo to play around with in a set stacked with hits, Weeds and tributes to crowds and former bandmates alike. Something Changed is given another scorching rendition, a beautiful piece of work which, when amplified on the stage and guided by a moving explanation of where the song can find itself for so many, is a powerful piece to play while the sun still shines through. Pulp has nailed their reunion setlist and where it may be light on the Hardcore material, it is inevitably heavy on hits.
Those hits push through and guide the set toward its crowd-pleasing moments. Disco 2000 is clapped into existence, where F.E.E.L.I.N.G. C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E. is a tattoo title inspiration waiting to happen as Cocker writhes around the stages. New Pulp recruits Emma Smith, Andrew McKinney and Adam Betts all fit perfectly into this generation of the band, slipping on comfortably like the Pink Glove performance they are carrying out. An encore for the encore soon comes around and fans are given some bursts of inevitable spirit with Common People, a track which captures the shlock and glam of recyclables and lip-gloss aesthetic, the chintzy allure of the band, this feeling it could all come crashing to pieces at any moment is a wonderful feeling to share with a packed-out crowd.
Castlefield is an extraordinary place. A place where a vodka coke is canned and the experience of hearing Do You The Remember the First Time hits that little bit different. Always helps when you heard it in Bridlington a month before. When a band are this in-form it’s hard to keep away from them. Nick Banks, Mark Webber and Candida Doyle hold firm as the classic line-up which has dominated their time on the scene with the high expectations an audience, twenty-five years on from This is Hardcore, still expects of them. Dance, drink and screw along with their music while you still can. There is a feeling this encore is a final farewell. It just has that feel to it.