Jarvis Cocker And Friends /Lee Hazlewood : London Royal Festival Hall

Jarvis is unwell

Jarvis is unwell. We know this because he smashes a bottle over his head before he starts this set of new solo material. The karate chopping of the balsa wood (twice!) is further evidence. When he bellows “bad monkey bad” at the close of a song, NME gazes anxiously into the wings to see if a man in a white coat with a big net is waiting.

Opener ‘The Heavy’ is exactly that. “Don’t fuck with me because I’m a heavyweight” he intones over an enveloping bass throb as guitar white noise fizzes. The Pulp confections of ribald wit, pathos and playfulness are tonight abandoned in favour of a sly update of the electroclash blueprint. Initially this appears merely to be Death In Vegas beamed in via a semi in Surbiton, but there is something seedier, and sexier at work – where Pulp are/were happy to be voyeurs, this feels like a man who’s dived in and got the cream all for himself.

The climax is two well-meaning readings of Lee Hazlewood classics, ‘Pour Man’ and ‘A Cheat’. While far superior to Primal Scream and Kate Moss’s recent mauling of Lee’s ‘Some Velvet Morning’, Jarv‘s vocals cannot compete with Lee’s bottomless velvet-lined cavern of a voice later on. Frankly, Lee could sing a psychiatric report and make it sound sexy, while Cocker‘ll need to be nimble to avoid becoming the subject of one.

Anthony Thornton