Live Review: Jarvis Cocker @ Sheffield Octagon

Friday 12th November 2021

Ahh Pulp. With the release of His ‘n’ Hers, Different Class and This is Hardcore, the Sheffield legends secured their status as pound for pound the best band of the 90s. Led by gangly genius Jarvis Cocker, Pulp were the soundtrack for the disaffected working classes. But by accident. Since those heady days, Jarv has receded further and further from the mainstream. A guitar heavy solo record here, an album recorded all in French there, but always quintessentially Jarvis…

Cocker arrives at the Sheffield Octagon with an acclaimed lockdown album (released under the moniker Jarv…Is) under his belt. And yet, thrillingly, and against all odds, the wily old dog only goes and starts with a Pulp song. Sheffield goes wild when the opening synth of It’s a Lady kicks in and Cocker rolls back the years with a stunning performance. From there it’s straight into Jarv…Is calling card House Music All Night Long, a song that confirms that Cocker’s loose-limbed, iconic dance moves remain intact. An unreleased track called either Slow Jam or Bad Friday (the band haven’t decided yet) slows things down before Cocker’s first solo album is represented with a spirited run through of Fat Children.

At this point, Cocker produces a tin of Quality Street (octagon shaped don’t you know) before preceded to toss chocolates into the crowd, eventually musing that we’re all ‘perfectly balanced between two modes of existence, the circle and the octagon…. who wants a toffee?’. Cue screams.

Another Jarv…is song Am I Missing Something fills every corner of the venue before a lovely rendition of Big Julie warms hearts and minds. Next, Sheffield is treated to something properly special. Introducing a special guest, Cocker brings out fellow Sheffield hero and former member of Pulp Richard Hawley for an outstanding and sadly prescient run through of Cunts Are Still Running the World. Quite.

Jarvis and the band leave the stage for the first time after old man party anthem Must I Evolve has everyone joining in with the backing vocals, but not before the former Pulp frontman informs the South Yorkshire faithful that he first played the Octagon back in 1985. Stunning longevity from the old man.

The first encore consists of the title track from Further Complications and Jarvis’ life affirming cover of Christophe’s Aline (recently recorded for Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch) and when he leaves to more applause and the lights DON’T immediately come on, we all dare to dream. Alas, whilst the old tease does close with a Pulp song, it’s not Babies or This is Hardcore or anything off Different Class, but rather My Legendary Girlfriend, a single from the band’s early(ish) days. And while there is a tinge of sadness that Cocker has this treasure chest of incredible music that he chooses not to open, this is why we love him. Has he evolved? Absolutely. Indeed, ‘change is a good thing’ as the man himself tells his hometown audience at the end of the night.

And that’s it. Jarvis Cocker. In Sheffield. Hold me.