Words: Pulp @ Fox Theatre Pomona, April 19, 2012

Photo by Sung. Full set here.

For the first time in sixteen years, Pulp reemerged last Thursday to perform for Los Angeles. Los Angeles, that is, if Pomona “counts as Los Angeles”–a question posed from the stage by the night’s master of ceremonies, Jarvis Cocker. The audience–an older-skewing convivial bunch that looked like a lot of L.A.: hot, stylish, Latino, sometimes all three at once–emphatically let him know: yes, you bet your ass Pomona counts as L.A.

Jarvis, being Jarvis, helpfully recounted the dates and locations of their previous L.A. appearances: September 24,1994, The Palace, leaving out the small detail that they were supporting some band called Blur that night. (I was there.) And the second and last stop: May 22, 1996, Hollywood Grand. (I’m losing my edge, but I was there.) (A typically clueless classic Robert Hilburn review of this show exists and is archived on the Times website, if you are in need of a laugh.)

So, here on a Thursday in Pomona, 1.6 decades later, the crowd (a lot of familiar faces in the house–of course that one guy who was at all the Brit Pop shows in the 90‘s was there–you know which guy, the guy with the hair) was won over from the initial sight of Jarvis’s familiar lean shape strutting across stage in suit and tie. In front of a neon sign spelling out the band’s name, the prop itself a sort of emblem for the band–retro stylish and just a bit wonky: the final “P” illuminates with a make-believe electrical short and buzz and flicker–Pulp played their longest show of their brief visit to the States, built around their Coachella spots, 2 hour, 20 song set, centering around 1995’s Different Class. Of course nostalgia was heavy in the air–lyrics such as “Do you remember the first time?” and “Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?” are resonating deeply tonight–but the show played out more like a victory celebration. Celebrating that this band is still together, still doing it after all these years and we’re still here, right here with them after all these years.

The band are mostly the 90‘s Pulp lineup, minus Russell Senior and his violin. They deliver a nice mix of energy and delicacy, looseness and precision and have the muscle to drive the songs over the top when Jarvis needs it. Jarvis is as Jarvis as ever, alternately suave and awkward, spastic kicks and punches, his voice as remembered–mellow talk-singing punctured by reaches for high notes at the limits of his range.

There’s no new album to slog through, so it’s all familiar tunes, hits and bigger hits. The band moved easily from the longer atmospheric drones (“This is Hardcore,” “His N’ Hers”) to the subculture anthems (“Sorted,” “Mis-Shapes”), to ballads (“Live Bed Show,” “Something Changed”). Many high points. You forget just how many huge choruses they have in their bag until they run them out there, one after another. Some personal standouts were “Mile End” (introduced with a hilarious impersonation of Trainspotting dialog by Jarvis that must be YouTubed); “Dishes” a personal favorite deep album track (“I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials/ I am the man who stays home and does the dishes”); and Mis-shapes (of course). They dust off one from 1984 (!?) called “Back In L.A.” that was fantastically rough and ragged, very post-punky, with vocals through a megaphone. Everything building, as expected, to the climax of “Common People,” which has seen a minor revival as an anthem of sorts for today’s political climate.

Looking back at at the class of 90‘s Brit Pop frontmen–your Damon Albarns, Brett Andersons, your Richard Ashcrofts, your Gallaghii–in 2012, it’s Jarvis that has emerged most as himself, fully intact and relevant as ever. (Reinvention and “growth” are overrated.) His lyrics have held up well. (Whereas looking too closely at some of the words put down by the likes of Suede or Blur, can be painful…) Jarvis’s stories of high and low culture, small towns and countryside, frustration and celebration, told with irony and sincerity, with precise minute observation and Big Ideas, really are made for these times. So what would a 2013 Pulp album sound like? Hopefully we’ll find out.

Pulp | pulppeople.com