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Live Review: Pulp - Cardiff International Arena

Jarvis Cover and Pulp performing at their gig at Cardiff Castle
Image credit: Emma Lewis

“This is a night you will remember for the rest of your life” was the message that flashed up on the screen before Pulp were about to begin their 531st live show as a band. A message showing the confidence and belief Jarvis and Co have in themselves that since forming in 1978, being the underdogs that rose to take over the mainstream and all these years later knowing what the fans want and knowing more than most how to put a show on and fully embrace what a live performance should be. The curtains were drawn, the band started playing I Spy and Jarvis dressed in a beautiful velvet suit rose from the back of the stage in a very god like way with the moon behind him. The joy from the crowd could be felt throughout Cardiff International Arena, our hero was on stage and already was given us a night to remember.

Jarvis slowly walked down the steps to the front of the stage asked if it was ok to entertain us for a couple of hours, yes of course Jarvis it is more than ok. We are all your disciples for as long as you want. He then got everyone to clap a rhythm which launched Disco 2000, and that was it, we were all lost, nothing else mattered apart from being in this room, being in this moment, sharing a collective experience with a band that changed our lives. At the time Disco 2000 sounded so far in the future. In the year 2023 it is frightening how far in the past the year 2000 now is. I was singing along, jumping, smiling punching my arms in the air in a way that instantly took me back to my teenage self.

That reconnection with another version of yourself was very much a theme throughout tonight’s show. Hearing these songs again was a trip back to adolescence, a time before mortgages, work, school runs, preparing lunches. I was back in my teenage bedroom, on my paper round with my Walkman relating to the lyrics of Disco 2000, relating to lines such as “We were friends that was as far as it went / I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant / Oh, it meant nothing to you / ‘Cause you were so popular”. Jarvis had given us a voice, he understood us and all these years later still does. During Disco 2000 a massive image of woodchip wallpaper appeared on the screen, this made me smile a lot. I remembered having a childhood bedroom with woodchip wallpaper and I would pick away at the woodchip much to my dad’s disgust.

Mis-Shapes followed, a song that is just as relevant if not more relevant now than it was in the mid 90’s. In a world where inequality is rife, where societies are divided this is the anthem for anyone that has ever felt on the outside of life. A song that has given the outsider a voice, given us company, can provide unity and show that we are not on our own. A song to encourage you to find your people and to be comfortable in who you are as an individual. Looking around the arena it certainly felt a happy place in this moment and felt that we are all in this together.

Something Changed has always been a love song for the indie kids. Jarvis introduced this song referring to how many stories he has heard over the years to people falling in love and having Something Changed as their song. Tonight the song is taken to the next level as Jarvis tenderly dedicates the song to bassist Steve Mackey who we sadly lost this year. Jarvis reminds us that tonight is a celebration of life and in so doing ensures that everyone of us in the arena feels truly blessed to be alive and to be here tonight sharing this moment. Something Changed now has extra meaning, it is a song about valuing life, holding on to those that matter to you, telling people that you love them, holding people close and valuing everything that you have in life.

Pink Glove is next, and of course there are a few people in the crowd who Jarvis spots that have come prepared by wearing a pink glove. The set is heavily focused on His N Hers and Different Class, however we also had songs that perhaps get a little overlooked including Weeds, Weeds II (The Origin of the Species), This Is Hardcore, Sunrise, Like a Friend, and After You.

F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E was as dark and mysterious as it has always been. The interchanging between the darkness of the verses to the infectious chorus is something to cherish. The party atmosphere and celebration of life continued with Sorted for E’s and Whizz, Do You Remember the First Time? and Babies.

There was of course one song that was saved for the encore, with Jarvis asking us is there a song that they have forgotten to play. The crowd goes wild, the band launch into Common People not only the greatest indie disco song of all time but arguably the greatest pop song of all time, well certainly of my generation. The crowd sing and dance, the years instantly roll back, and the world is ours once again for the taking. The band leave the stage and many start to leave thinking how this can be topped. Well, the band have other ideas and appear again for the second encore which includes After You, Razzmatazz and Glory Days which is played out against a backdrop of images of the band throughout the ages. This really is such a beautiful and emotional moment hearing this song and those images and suddenly everything feels right with the world.

We were promised a night to remember for the rest of our lives, by the time the show finished at around 11pm that promise was certainly met. We had the songs of our youth, but it wasn’t just that, it was songs that changed our lives, songs that all these years later still matter. We also had confetti, fireworks, Jarvis trying to catch a grape in his mouth and throwing sweets into the crowd. I have had the privilege of going to so many gigs over the years, this one is certainly up there with the best of them. It was about that connection that you can’t have if you stay at home. As people we need to be around others, sharing moments like this. It also gave me the opportunity to re-connect with friends who I have not been to a gig with since before the pandemic, and it was like no time had passed. It shows the enduring power of music and friendship that you can re-unite in an instant like no time has passed at all.

The title of this tour is This Is What We Do For An Encore, after tonight’s performance we all hope this is not Pulp’s encore. Jarvis commented during the show that he exists to do this, and these songs would be nothing if they weren’t able to play them to people. He looked like a man that was loving what he was doing on that stage, was grateful to be there and it could be argued that Pulp are the best they have ever been. If this is their encore then it would be a fine way to say goodbye but I have a strong feeling Pulp are not finished yet.

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