The last time Pulp performed in New York City was 14 years ago. Despite so much having changed around the city that never sleeps and in the world, after nearly two decades away from the Big Apple, Pulp showed they never lost their touch. "The last time we were here, we played a place called Hammerstein Ballroom. Is it still around?," Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker asked the sold-out audience at the second of two gigs at Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night. Hammerstein Ballroom is indeed still around, but I am sure even Cocker himself never envisioned playing with this band at Radio City Music Hall.
While Pulp formed in the late 70's in Sheffield, England and released a handful of records in the '80s, it was not until the Britpop boom or "The Second British Invasion" that featured Blur, Oasis, Spiritualized, The Verve, Suede and so many others, that Pulp really took international notoriety. By the turn of the century however, the band went on hiatus and members of the band still played as session musicians. Cocker, however, notably released two solo records, made a cameo in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra and Air, among others. Then in 2011, after nearly a decade apart, Pulp reformed, and now, ahead of their appearance at Coachella, they played their first U.S. concerts in New York City to an audience that had waited so long to see them play again.
As the house lights dimmed at 9 p.m. sharp, a laser light projection of random thoughts, sentences and commands to the audience displayed across the stage. As the scrim rose to reveal Pulp, a massive set of neon lights that spelt "P.U.L.P." shined. To massive applause, Pulp cunningly broke into "Do You Remember The First Time?" and officially set at ease that they are back. While some in the audience were too young to even have had a first experience seeing Pulp, those that held onto the memory of seeing this band again got to relive that moment in a way no one would have ever thought. In between songs Cocker would banter from just about anything from Kurt Vonnegut, to Stephen Hawkins, to Brooklyn beer, to Radio City, to New York and so much more. While most singers lose the audience's attention with this much banter, Cocker only grasped the crowd more, everyone so curiosity about what he is going to say next. Cocker, who looked like your crazy economics professor from college, would show appreciation to the crowd multiple time, even climbing the side pillars of Radio City and dance his face off in platform shoes and a tacky brown suit as the band sounded just as pitch perfect as one would hope - especially after all this time and wait.
In a two hour set that included "Disco 2000," "This is Hardcore," "Bar Italia," "Pencil Skirt," "Common People" and the rare played B-Side, "Like a Friend," Pulp touched every base and simply gave the paying customers what they wanted. Since they have a catalog that could span far beyond the time allotted to them, I hope it won't be another 14-year wait to see one of England's greatest live bands in action again.