Of all the virtual concerts to happen since Covid-19 made your traditional venue-plus-punters set-up impossible, Jarvis Cocker’s latest apocalyptic disco project JARV IS… have managed to score two pandemic party firsts. Not only are they the only artists we’ve seen book a support DJ – even if the DJ in question is Cocker himself recreating his ‘Domestic Disco’ Instagram-streamed sessions a set direct from London’s Spiritland bar – but they’re also the first band to beam in an online, pre-recorded show from an actual cave.
Though Cocker’s claim that they have “invented a new way of playing a concert” might be a little rich, the super-stylised Beyond The Pale…. Live From The Centre of the Earth – shot by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who also directed the lush 2014 Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth – is an intoxicating thing. And like all good things, it is fleeting – the show is only on YouTube for 24 hours.
It was filmed earlier this month at the Peak Cavern in Derbyshire, the same underground network where a nascent JARV IS… performed two years ago, and sees them shimmy through new album ‘Beyond The Pale’. The place is lit up like the Camden branch of Cyberdog at Christmas; all pointy pink lasers and nightmarishly back-lit rock faces in stark purples, blues and reds. “Thank you – I know you’re clapping there at home, I know you’re going crazy,” offers a sharp-suited Cocker, his voice booming through the grooviest of grottos after Leonard Cohen-style electronic opener ‘Save The Whale’. “It doesn’t matter where you are; we’re hoping we can make some kind of a connection with you.”
That this connection will be largely via wifi isn’t a surprise to anyone anymore. After four months of cancelled gigs, we’ve quickly become used to watching our favourite artists sing for us through laptop and phone screens rather than from the stage of Brixton Academy. So rather than whinge about what we’re missing, let’s celebrate what we have, which is uncluttered shots Cocker’s still-spectacular dance moves, the camera honing in on his iconic specs for unlimited eye contact close-ups and intimate introductions to songs (which would normally be drowned out by your mate yelling in your ear to ask if you want another pint).
Before the prescient, LCD Soundsystem-worthy highlight ‘House Music All Night Long’ (written before the pandemic, the lyrics tell of a house-bound party “Lost in the night of the living room”), Cocker faces the camera like a late night science show host. “Express your love for your house during this song. That can take any form at all. There’s no way we can see what you’re doing, so exorcise it – and exercise your body,” he instructs us.
Sure, it’s not the same as being there in the cave with him and the band, but as a mirror ball floods the spooky space and twinkling shafts of bright white light flicker across the screen and into our living room, it’s the closest we’ve been to a proper house party since February.