When it comes to growing old disgracefully, one man does it with the greatest panache.Troxy, London, Wednesday June 17
the grand old man of lit-pop is entering territory as fraught with danger as a minefield – and there are just two ways to navigate through. Relive all those past glories into his dotage, or stride incisively on, à la Nick Cave. Being a proper ‘artiste’, Jarvis is taking the latter route of course. Yet the same folk who scoff at Oasis’ inability to move beyond the status quo are now demanding that Jarvis forget forward motion and join the ‘Britpop’s Back’ bus that
will soon be pootling into a town near you. There’s just no pleasing some people.
With his critics in mind, then, Jarvis takes to the stage tonight with a cane – “If you misbehave I’ll see you in my study afterwards” – as well as a sense of apprehension that has the tweedy one ask three times, and with tangible concern, if we’re all “enjoying ourselves out there?” He’s a sensitive chap, alright. He always has been because he’s so painfully honest, which is exactly why ‘Further Complications’, and its exposition of creeping, back-aching age, is better than those reviews suggested. It’s also why Jarv makes us laugh out loud with each tale of middle-aged folly.
Dressed in his maths teacher garb and yelling “’allo Lime’ouse”, Jarv doesn’t put a foot wrong for the first half-hour, unleashing the moves (the Teapot, the Jacko Arse Wiggle and the Toy Donkey), acting the barfly comic and playing the keyboard with his leg like Jerry Lee Lewis on glowering instrumental opener ‘Pilchard’. The sweat dripping off him is proof he’s rocking his new, pissed-off sound hard, especially on ‘Angela’ and a brilliant ‘Further Complications’.
There are a few duff moments, like dank college rocker ‘Sludge’ and a set-closing ‘You’re In My Eyes (Discosong)’, which is less steamy than dancing at a school disco while your mum waits to give you a lift home. But when Jarv acts out his life in song, he reigns supreme. He offers himself up as a dog-eared bachelor on ‘Leftovers’ with such tender pleading he won’t be short of proposals, and snarls the titular refrain from ‘I Never Said I Was Deep’ like he’s going to have a boozy mid-life crisis and to hell with us. With so many of his peers refusing to grow up, or face the natural decline head on, it’s another refreshing reason to listen to this old Cock.