Riley wrote 53 patterns of music then left the musicians to decide when and where to play them there are moments so unfocused they make watching wood rot seem appealing...
Where have all the Britpoppers gone? Because they’re not here, that’s for sure. Maybe Robbie’s playing across town. Or perhaps the trauma of seeing Spiritualized and Elastica paying atonal tribute to chinstrokers’ favourite LaMonte Young a year ago still looms large in their collective conscious. Whatever, the herds of Pulpettes have definitely stayed away tonight. Just compare the applause for Jarvis Cocker when he trails in behind the 16-piece orchestra – a few cheers from scattered corners of the sold-out hall – to the rapturous adulation Riley elicits.
Thus, we must wonder exactly who benefits from all of this. Did Pulp merely want something grown-up to put on their post-Britpop CVs? Certainly, this hour-long performance of the composer’s 25-year-old instrumental ‘In C’ is anything but a juicy collision of old and new ideas. While the grey-suited Jarvis, keyboard player Mark Webber and bassist Steve Mackey take centre-stage, their contribution beyond a touch of celebrity frisson seems marginal. And, as with much improvised music – Riley wrote 53 patterns of music then left the musicians to decide when and where to play them – there are moments so unfocused they make watching wood rot seem appealing. Sure, when it falls together a glorious melody surges from the chaos, usually bringing the languorous groove of Spiritualized’s ‘Electric Mainline’ to mind. Believe us, though, you’d rather listen to that than this.
For once, then, the Britpoppers did the right thing.