Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jarvis Cocker, Koko, London, 15.11.06

Perhaps it was too much to ask. Jarvis Cocker’s debut solo album is poised to top every Best Of 2006 chart going. However, tonight’s gig, only his third since Pulp were put on ice in 2002, falls disappointingly short of the record. It starts well enough with the punked-up Fat Children and a rousing version of Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time. All the old moves are there: a pipe-cleaner-thin Jarvis strings together a series of elbow jerks, limp wristed flourishes and nervous tics, the overall effect not unlike the Mr Muscle man trying to fight his way out of a paper bag. “It’s good to be back at what I have to call The Camden Palace,” he says. “Why name a venue after a drink that puts you to sleep.” It turns out to an unfortunate gag. The album is made up predominantly of slow songs and somewhat unavoidably, after an upbeat start, things slow down to a crawl. Jarvis gamely tries to deflect attention from the fact that the next song is going to be another downtempo number with extended and amusing between-song banter. It’s only partially successful and sag threatens to turn into a somnambulant slump. But then he rallies: while Tonight and From A To I loose the stately grace of the studio versions, Big Julie is fabulous; the rear guard action continues with a brilliantly loud Black Magic; and by the encore, Running The World, he’s turned it around. However, why he teases the crowd with the promise of an old song for “being good” only to cover Bowie’s Space Oddity is hard to understand: why play someone else’s crowd pleaser when you’ve got so many of your own? A Pulp song would have been so much better. Not a triumphant return to the live arena, then, but an adequate one.

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