How fitting that, in Easter week, a charismatic and frequently full-bearded man of the – forgive me (Father!) – ‘Common People’ should rock-up in town, staging his own resurrection. Emerging from the appropriately tomblike depths of the cavernous basement at Patterns and proving that there is, indeed, life after big-band death, this was the other ‘JC’ – Jarvis Cocker – pouring forth pearls of worldly wisdom that seemed to captivate everyone who had come to hear the man preach.
In a tight set that betrayed none of the unpolished newness that Jarvis was at pains to point out and excuse (“Will you still respect us in the morning!?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned), the audience was privy to a privileged peek at several new songs, which will appear, well, we know not where, or at least not yet!
This was an interesting set-up for Jarvis and, in fact, any pop-rock band, with Serafina Steer on harp and keyboard, Emma Smith on violin (and also sharing the 12-string guitar with Jarvis himself) Andrew McKinney on bass and Adam Betts pounding the drums, with a discernible Blondie ‘Heart Of Glass’ homage at one point. A reinterpretation of that new wave classic warmed us up before the band even arrived on stage. A lot has clearly gone into this melting pot.
Commence the pouting, convulsing theatrics and limp-wristed lunging. No change there then since the Pulp days of yore – cue a collective sigh of relief! The ragdoll shaman seamlessly wove mime-artist moves, mid-song, with his more conversational meanderings in between, musing on hopes, the fear of missing out and how we inter-relate as a species. “Songs are about communication” he proclaimed to the audience. Then later on, “A lot of communication is body language” and finally “Life has no script”. This was Jarvis the evangelist, bringing his message to the masses while keeping it real and relatable. “We don’t really know what we are yet!”, he confessed, referring to this new line-up of musicians and songs.
The old, familiar Jarvis existentialism is still in evidence though, only in sharper focus these days, as a man in his middle years, contemplating his mortality more keenly than the Britpop 30-something of yesteryear. He may even name this new band ‘Jarv Is’, he told us. Gone are the reflections on seedy sexual encounters and where to score the next chemical high, replaced by ponderings on evolution, power and obsolescence, “Maybe I just have to change to get with it?” came another resigned, rhetorical question. This was a night with a heavy emphasis on communication – the Cocker antennae on high alert for audience response and reaction.
For the many who were no doubt missing Jarvis’ famed and lauded radio shows that came to an end last year, presumably to make way for this new musical venture, there were nostalgic, affectionate nods to some of his regular features, like ‘On This Day’. “It’s Richard Dawkins’ birthday today!” Jarvis announced, segueing perfectly into the unexpectedly motorik new track, ‘Must I Evolve?’
The set list was nothing if not varied, from an airing of a new song that will feature in a film soundtrack “Later this year”, to a thunderous rendition of debut solo album track ‘Fat Children’, via another backflip to 2009’s chugging, Dr Feelgood-esque ‘Further Complications’. Jarvis can still set a scene and tell a tale like the best of them, plucking inspiration from the ordinary and elevating it while simultaneously debasing it. “Does anyone remember that shop Swanky Modes, in Camden?” he asked the audience, eliciting a few, eager replies in the affirmative. “Well, this song’s about that shop… I imagined someone working there!”
There’s clearly life in the man yet and how apt and on-point Jarvis’ gleaming, green shirt was, for this is a brand new band, in bud and ready to burst into bloom. To extend the opening metaphor to its inevitable end-point: He is risen!