Pulp @ Utilita Arena, Sheffield, UK, July 14, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Pulp, Richard Hawley

Pulp @ Utilita Arena, Sheffield, UK, July 14, 2023,

Jul 16, 2023 Photography by Juliana Loveluck Web Exclusive
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​“I exist to do this,” exclaims Jarvis Cocker before launching into a celebratory “Common People” at the end of the first of two encores during Pulp‘s first hometown show since December 2012 and their 532nd in total as a band. It’s to their credit and the musical legacy they’ve created that they’re still able to fill the 13,600 capacity Sheffield Arena for two nights in a row despite having no plans to record any new music in the foreseeable future. From the moment Pulp announced their return last October, anticipation levels have reached fever pitch with many shows already sold out months in advance, such is the demand to see Jarvis Cocker and co perform songs that became a soundtrack to the 1990s and beyond.

Indeed, having reached as far back into the archives as 1983’s debut single “My Lighthouse” for Pulp’s last appearance at Sheffield Arena eleven years ago, it was always going to be fascinating to see whether a similar era would be revisited for this tour. However, 1992’s “Babies” then “Razzmatazz” during the second encore are the oldest songs aired this evening, for a tour that has become a tribute to the memory of former bass player Steve Mackey, who sadly passed away in March of this year. Four songs into the main set, Cocker straps on an acoustic guitar for the first of several times this evening and dedicates “Something Changed” to Mackey.

While Cocker is the only original band member on stage this evening - it’s probably fair to say Pulp went through nearly as many members as The Fall during their formative years - long standing drummer Nick Banks and keyboard player Candida Doyle form part of the present line-up alongside rhythm guitarist Mark Webber whose contributions to every album from 1995’s Different Class onwards assure him a place in the band’s “classic line-up.” With the rest of the main core made up from members of Cocker’s JARV IS… project (Emma Smith on violin and guitar, Andrew McKinney on bass and Adam Betts on percussion and guitar) not forgetting the Elysian Collective on strings, backing vocals and general good vibes, it’s an unflinchingly tight ship that’s as taut musically as one would expect from such an institution as Pulp.

Complete with eye-catching visuals throughout, from an introductory “This Is What We Do For An Encore” (the name of this tour) displayed on two screens either side of the stage to the dazzling and colourful backdrops that accompany each of the eighteen songs (including both encores) aired this evening. There’s also a couple of nods to the past, not least when Cocker introduces “Babies” by addressing someone in the audience on their stag night before speaking the words of the song’s opening verse while its video plays in the background, then launching into the song like it was 1993 at the Leadmill all over again.

Understandably, the bulk of the set is made up of songs off the aforementioned Different Class, the band’s fifth and most successful album having gone platinum four times and won the following year’s (then) Mercury Music Prize. As an opening trio goes, it doesn’t get much better than “I Spy” into “Disco 2000” into “Mis-Shapes”. Forty-two years on from the band’s very first gig back in 1980, Pulp still sound as relevant and invigorating as they’ve ever done. “Pink Glove”, one of only two songs played off 1994’s breakthrough album His ‘n’ Hers is a welcome addition while the cleverly segued “Weeds” into “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” complete with psychedelic visuals makes for an enthralling midset couplet.

“Do You Remember The First Time?” brings back memories of yours truly’s first ever Pulp show (Sheffield Leadmill, November 1993) while “Sunrise” featuring the addition of Richard Hawley on guitar proves a fitting climax to the first part of the set. Introduced as simply “The Master” by Cocker at the start of “Common People” later on, Hawley’s role in the Pulp story should never be underestimated, and nor should his incredible work as a solo artist as demonstrated by the forty-five minutes set that opens proceedings tonight. If “Tonight The Streets Are Ours” proves a rallying cry of sorts, “Don’t Stare At The Sun” and “Open Up Your Door” tug at the heart strings while highlighting Hawley as an exemplary performer in his own right.

Back to Pulp, and as today (14th July) coincides with blues legend Woody Guthrie’s birthday, Cocker recites one of his most famous quotes (“Anyone who uses more than two chords is just showing off”) before launching into “Like A Friend”, one of three songs aired from the This Is Hardcore period. “Underwear” comes next, again inducing a mass singalong with its insatiable chorus before the timeless “Common People” lifts the roof off the Utilita Arena.

It would have been easy to stop just there but instead, Pulp returned for a second encore including early single “Razzmatazz” - introduced as “probably the oldest song we’ll play this evening” - bookended by the band’s last ever release, 2013’s “After You” and This Is Hardcore closer “Glory Days”. As canons fill the arena with multi-coloured ticker tape and confetti its probably fair to say no one present will forget this evening in a hurry.

Hopefully this won’t be the last time we get to celebrate the unadulterated magic of Pulp.


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