It wasn't until the last few minutes of the show when Jarvis started unbuttoning his shirt, half serious half parody, to wild shrieks. Any other performer of his caliber (and there are only few) would have taken out/off that ace card an hour earlier. Thing is, Jarvis has about 52 ace cards he goes through before he starts to think about resorting to cheap thrills. Some of my favorites are: the finger popsicle wag, the horizontal elbow jab, the baby-bottom mic slap, and the list goes on. He came out pretty much at 10 on the dot in his usual gentleman drapery: sharp suit, drainpipe jeans, buttery boots. He gave out a few chocolates to people in the front (I couldn't help thinking of "Mis-shapes" off the Different Class album - his quote about how Mis-shapes are the chocolates that aren't perfect enough to go in the fancy boxes). And from there it simply was full-on for ninety minutes, a rock catharsis that left everyone in the Music Hall completely bewitched.
Slinking over the entire stage, Jarvis seemed especially emotive, more so than the show last year at Webster Hall. There were times when it looked like a poltergeist was trapped in his jeans. Only during his storytelling in between songs did he stay relatively still, but you could tell even then that he was just cocking the pin back. He can turn possessed in a hurry, and I'm always suspect about those scuba-diving glasses he wears. How do they not fly off when he's flying and twisting about? He basically comes undone on stage! It's like that Tom Wolfe joke on The Simpsons, where someone spills red wine on his white seersucker suit and he just rips it off and he's got another one underneath.
He covered most of the terrific tracks of the self-titled album from last year ("Tonite," "Big Julie," "I Will Kill Again," etc) and he also unveiled a cluster of new songs, introducing each song with mumblings and anecdotes (my personal wish is that Jarvis' third act in his career will be that of a simple monologist). He's become the master of small talk and making things seem funnier and bigger than they should be. It's been almost thirty years since Jarvis first started Pulp, and in all those years he has honed all his stories, twitches and snaps down to a brilliant sear. The man is hypnotic, for sure. I always thought all those brooding paintings of him that Elizabeth Peyton did in the '90s never really captured what makes Jarvis so special, that whole caged-animal placidity he's got about him. When he talks, he does so with deliberate pacing and consideration. Seconds later, he's ripping your head off. Then, he thanks you for it.
He closed out the night with a cover of Master C & J's "Face It" (I'm not super familiar with it), which I think was probably something he put together specifically for the Pitchfork festival in Chicago a few nights before, as he introduced the song as a tribute to the old Chicago house days. I would've paid an extra $10 just to see him do Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" like he did last year at Webster Hall, but I can't complain. The encore before "Face It" was the bittersweet track "Running The World" which has that great chorus line. In a town full of the cunts he sings of (this fact of which I'm positive Jarvis privately snickered to), it got served up as the ultimate Cocker valentine to New York.
Photos by Gabirel Kuo