Ride the wave of reunions seeing the summer of 2023 through. Pulp is back and for those who did not see them the first or second time, they are better than ever. A stylish explosion, of kitschy definitions and supermarket aisle adventures blasting the backdrop of a euphoric Common People, helmed by a band who sing to a sold-out room of them. Pulp and their return to the big stage is a welcome one, and a warm experience it is hearing old classics, a new track and seeing the writhing expertise of frontman Jarvis Cocker. Tie it all together with the endless stream of booze, the need to hear the James Murphy-produced After You live, and the Pulp faithful are left with a night they will remember, as the band boasts in their opening display, “for the rest of your lives”.
Rightly so. Few gigs are rent-free on the mind for as long as this one. Flicking through the murky pictures of Cocker and company powering through a tightly wound set which leaves time for a few teases toward the end. Two encores, three if you count their reunion plan on the whole. It gives rise to new meaning, the deeper cuts of Weeds and Weeds II: The Origin of the Species is a nicely placed piece which will no doubt win over the We Love Life faithful. Hit-heavy and rightly so, Pulp provides plenty of Different Class hits and burst through the I Spy, Disco 2000, Mis-Shapes, Something Changed quartet with a fiery start to their second night on the Sheffield Utilita stage.
Staple inclusions of This is Hardcore and Babies provide two sides to the Pulp image, the sleazy leathers and red wine-drinking of the former, the seedy expectations of lust in the latter. Both of them find their place on stage and guitarist Mark Webber, later joined by Richard Hawley on lap steel and supported by Emma Smith throughout, is in fine form. Everyone is. From Candida Doyle and Cocker providing unreleased track Hymn of the North at the end of the show to Nick Banks blasting the drums away and keeping steady rhythm on Sunrise as Cocker whirls his arms around as though being pelted by imaginary fruit. Confetti cannons, well-timed dedications to late bassist Steve Mackey and a feeling of triumph over the Friday crowd settle into this Saturday showcase.
For those who waited so long to see them, it could not get better than this. This is the peak of any band, whose direct and clear vision for their return to the stage cannot be argued with. So clear it is where Cocker and company want to take the next iteration of Pulp, how they wish to articulate their tunes and the light shows around it, that Pulp provides the perfect set. They go big with their stage design, the presence of it all, from Cocker rising through the ground as the moon transitions into a 1960s James Bond pastiche to the velvet curtains and Lydia Davis readings which precede Like a Friend. If a band and performance and song can spur you on into wanting a tattoo, so be it. F.E.E.L.I.N.G. C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E. should have its place, after all. Pulp provides an incredible night of sincerity, singles and slips back into the booming presence of their heyday as though they never left it behind. A band whose energy is transferred to the crowd, pocketed and spilt on the floors of The Leadmill just hours later.