Back to the Futon – Pulp at Motorpoint – 8th December 2012

There’s a really great comic strip by genius writer Alan ‘Watchmen’ Moore for the galaxy’s greatest comic, 2000AD… 
An inventor floats through a weird bubble-filled space – apparently some kind of Time Machine – as he revisits the pivotal points in his life – touching his favourite teddy bear, kissing his first love and so on. He remembers how his obsession with building the titular temporal manipulator broke up his marriage and left him with nothing, before (spoilers) realising time travel is impossible and throwing himself in the river – at which point you realise the time machine he’s been floating through are memories from his oxygen-starved brain as the drowning man loses consciousness…

It’s an amazing story. Five pages that mix the mundanity of bus shelters and P45s with cosmos spanning sci-fi. The two go together beautifully, and as a majestic Pulp – arrayed on the Sheffield Arena stage in professorial suits and ties (click here for the gig gallery by our new best chum Glenn Ashley Photography) – announce they’d like to attempt time travel and take us back some thirty years to the beginning of the band you realise this is pretty much the final frontier for a group that started off tied to the Panda Pops and Parkways of Sheffield but now seem on the verge of ascending to some higher plane. Like Barnsley.

Jarvis Cocker by Glenn Ashley Photography
There’s no need for DeLoreans though. Pulp’s trip through time – stopping off at a full-fat rendition of debut single My Lighthouse before a crooned Little Girl (with Blue Eyes) and a thrilling Countdown – requires just a few rolls of toilet paper draped around the stage (and the audience) to give the Motorpoint that authentic early-eighties Pulp look. And a significant portion of the audience is transported. It's a typical Pulp move – avoid waxing lyrical about the good old days by metaphorically attempting to go back and visit them. 
Jarvis might be unlikely to be give any Indian cricket top orders nightmares any time soon (you know you’re doing well when the worst criticism you can make of a gig is that the band aren’t very good at throwing) but Pulp's homecoming gig – a mere ten years since their farewell at Magna in 2002 – spins a beautiful yarn that's soft, strong and very long.
Well over two hours in fact. There's great sound, a really tight band and 24 songs here for twelve thousand assembled misshapes, mistakes and misfits (including the band themselves minus Russell Senior – the one disappointment for many). And it quickly becomes apparent this is going to be a greatest hits, 'best of' and document of Pulp all in one – showcasing everything from the band's twisted stadium torch songs (Underwear) and noir catcalls (Monday Morning) to prog (the queasy quantum vampire of Sunrise).  The hits – Babies, Disco 2000, Common People, Sorted for E's and Whizz – all sound fresh as daisies, conducted by a louche, lithe Jarvis who slinks around stage and atop speaker like a cardiganed panther and augmented by special guest Richard Hawley's guitar. But the songs that really stick, that really get you, and turn this from a celebration into something more personal – are the ones that never really fit any of these boxes. I bow to no man in my love for This is Hardcore but F.E.E.L.I.N.G. C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E. in particular is as strange and powerful on this performance as the dizzying emotion it charts. Suddenly, the thought of losing this unique and fiercely loveable band for another ten years is as terrifying as a lungful of nostalgia.
Review by Rob Barker
Is this the band's best ever show? Is This is Hardcore Pulp's best song? Why can no-one in the band throw overarm? Let us know in the comments…

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