During Pulp’s headline set on the closing night of the Wireless Festival, singer Jarvis Cocker thanked those in attendance for being the “early adopters”, as this was the first of their shows that went on sale. Presumably, he was joking, as the Sheffield band formed in the 70s and have spent much of their career being ignored. After finding success in the 90s, the band drifted apart and finally split up in 2002. After this show, however, it’s hard to see how we ever coped without them.
The sense of humour of Cocker and co. still remains, their set opening with a series of questions lasered onto a black curtain shielding the band from the fans — “Are you ready?… I said ‘Are you ready?!'”. This process seems to last about four hours, with perfect comic timing (very good stage presence for a laser projection). Fortunately this crowd are Pulp’s people, and whereas many others would view it as taking the piss, it goes down very well tonight. Then, from behind the curtain, we see ‘P’ come up in lights to inevitable cheers, following it are ‘U’, ‘L’ and then, after some spoof technical difficulties, ‘P’, and the band play ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’. This balance of anticipation and absurdity sets the tone for the rest of the night.
Pulp play mostly from their two most successful albums, His ‘n’ Hers and Different Class, and it is pleasing to see that their back catalogue has aged well, and that the band do not feel like a nostalgia act. Jarvis is as funny and limber as ever, albeit a bit beardy; and Russell Senior looks almost exactly as he did when he left the band in 1997 – sneering detachment in a suit. Jarvis dedicates ‘Pink Glove’ to Jim Morrison (on the anniversary of his death), and announces the birthday of Tom Cruise. In order to reinstate the artful indie vibe, the crowd is treated to some Shelley before ‘This Is Hardcore’.
‘This Is Hardcore’ is an epic moment: the stage is awash with red light, as Jarvis dances in a way that would get you arrested in most clubs, mounting speakers and clearly loving every moment. Somehow, during this, London’s Hyde Park just doesn’t seem big enough. All the hits are played tonight, alongside some lesser-known tracks such as ‘Mile End’. ‘I Spy’ also impresses, with Cocker’s spoken-word section becoming a sermon, and the “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” refrain sounding as unexpected as the first time one hears it. ‘Sunrise’ is the only song played from their 2001 album We Love Live, and on this stage it sounds far more important then it ever did before.
It’s not much of a surprise that Pulp choose to end their set with ‘Common People’, the song which made them famous and without which their reunion probably wouldn’t have commanded headline sets. The performance reminds us that they are an inventive, original band, who somehow slipped through the net and became famous. During the final chorus of ‘Common People’ (after a lengthy “thank you” and “here’s the band”) the crowd drowns out the band and confetti fills the air, another night’s work well done. They don’t make them like Pulp anymore.