One of Jarvis Cocker‘s many signature moves is this thing he does with his elbow while sliding closer to the audience. His chin goes up a little too, I don’t think I’m really describing it well, but anyone who’s seen him do it knows what I’m talking about. It’s just the coolest thing you’re ever seen. He’s also quite adept at leaping, reaching one hand toward the sky, and various shimmies and shakes that, along with his always-on wit and distinctive vocals, make him a superstar. There is nobody else like him.
At 43, with a solo debut that is not only mature but mostly about "maturing," some might have expected a toned-down the live show. But I’m happy to report that Jarvis Cocker remains a total sex machine — leaping around, standing on the monitors, swinging the mike, and that elbow slide thing. Last night was his first NYC show in nearly ten years, and from the opening notes of the roaring "Fat Children" through the final encore cover of Black Sabbath’s "Paranoid" (!!!), Jarvis had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand the entire time — without playing a single Pulp song. In fact, I don’t think I even heard anyone shout out a request for one. People seemed to know that this wasn’t Pulp and Jarvis wasn’t looking back. I hemmed and hawed about paying the $30 for a ticket (especially at Webster Hall) but I am so glad I did. This will, without a doubt, be one of Concerts of the Year.
With a five-piece band that featured Pulp bassist Steve Mackey (but, disappointingly, not Richard Hawley who I thought for sure would be there), Jarvis played almost everything from his excellent solo album, plus b-sides "One Man Show" and "Big Stuff." (Equipment problems kept them from playing songs with samples, particularly "Black Magic" which employs liberal amounts of Tommy James & the Shondells’ "Crimson and Clover.") Jarvis, the album, didn’t grab me immediately, but it has slowly grown on me over the last six months to the point where I’m wondering how it was I didn’t include it in my Top Ten of 2006. (Buy it now.)
Still, the songs came off much better live (despite Webster Hall’s recurring bass-heavy sound mix), benefitting from Jarvis’ funny introductions and stage banter. He was much more into it and engaged with the audience than at Pulp’s last NYC show at Hammerstein Ballroom on the This is Hardcore tour. Highlight was probably the angry, anthemic "Cunts are Still Running the World" which so memorably played over the end of Children of Men. (You have seen the Best Movie of 2006, yes?) Walking home from the Bedford stop, where I’m pretty sure everyone who got off the train had been at the show, I heard two girls talking about the show, saying it was like seeing Elvis. I can only assume they meant skinny Elvis, but I know what they meant. While there are a lot of performers who have "it," there aren’t many who radiate "it" the way Jarvis does.
Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time
One Man Show (MP3)
I Will Kill Again
Auschwitz to Ipswitch
Big Stuff (MP3)
Cunts are Still Running the World
Heaven (Talking Heads cover)
Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
Sometimes acts of Jarvis’ stature tend to pick openers they know won’t upstage them (Morrissey and New Order come to mind) but Dirty Projectors were pretty great. The harmonies were so perfect and theatrical that you could tell at least some of them had gone to music school, yet they almost remind me of the Minutemen (or fIREHOSE)… in a Queen sort of way. Don’t know if they’re playing the Monday Webster Hall show or not, but worth showing up early just in case.