Jarvis Cocker: La Cigale, Paris; Sunday November 12

Jarvis Cocker: La Cigale, Paris; Sunday November 12

Our hero takes Sheffield Sex City to Paris, the capital of lurve

Locked in a vaudevillian theatre on the northern side of their city, 600 Parisians are gazing in rapture at a Steel City bedsit laureate wrapping his iconic limbs around a microphone stand and his silver tongue around the planet’s most succulent language.

“Bonjour. Je m’appelle Jarvis,” he purrs, well actually it’s more like “Bonger. Yummapple Jarvis” but either way, his crowd are satisfied and a tasteful surf of Gallic glee laps warmly at his feet. Well, for a moment it does, before the great, leaden Wellington boot of boozy Britain splashes its way through proceedings, splattering the velveteen furnishings with beer, green parkers and the gutteral terrace chant of “Yawksheer! Yawksheer! Yaaaawksheer!” – Ah, les Anglais; qu’ils sont vulgaires.

And that’s Jarvis Cocker for you: a 16-foot librarian with a dirty mind and a sharp eye, who somehow became the toast of the bourgeoisie he ridiculed, the hero of the working classes he longed to leave behind, an unlikely icon of Bulldog Britain and a figurehead for Nerds International. Tonight, though Sheffield’s booze-cruisers believe he’s theirs by birth and Parisian vinyl junkies believe he’s theirs d’esprit, the truth is that we’re all in his pocket, happy and grateful to be there.

Jarvis is here, in his adoptive hometown, to play tracks from his first solo record. To be honest he could be recreating his ‘Jarvcasts’ by telling Icelandic fairytales and this crowd would still have been queuing chirpily for the show, but as luck would have it he decides not to do that and instead, as opening tale of Asbo-terror ‘Fat Children’ bursts from its paddock, these songs prance their charismatic way across the audience’s mind.

Backed by a full band including old muckers Steve Mackey and Johnny Cash-Converters (aka Richard Hawley), these songs are a long way from the electro-pop of Pulp’s heyday, veering closer to the upper echelons of lounge as personified by Scott Walker, or, closer to (this) home, Serge Gainsbourg. Accordingly then, it seems to be the French who are happier than the travelling Brits – whose love will never be in doubt, but whose attention may be. Anyway, screw the visiting meat-heads, if once again Jarvis has confused them then we’re sure he’s done it on purpose.

Tonight, ‘Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time’ and ‘I Will Kill Again’ are classy pop suits more than (pardon the pun) suitable for the refined circumstances. Which is lucky, because newie ‘One Man Show’, skulking around the refrain, “A man alone, reduced to holding his own”, wantonly lowers the tone. This may be the most romantic city on Earth, but the King of Sheffield Sex City doesn’t do chocolate boxes and roses, he’s dirtier then that – still. So he clasps his ass in coquettish play, rubs his hands over his crotch and thrusts manfully at his blushing audience. They say that those who come to sex late can never get enough of it; well, Jarv must be going some distance to scratch the itch, because he’s making filthy love to hundreds of us.

‘Disney Time’ is a work of magnificence, matching pornographic urges with the Disnification of the family image – tonight delivered with bared teeth and the violent and demented disco dancing of the same young(ish) Jarv who once turned his arse into a protest against a similarly twisted Americanisation of family values (ie Michael Jackson). ‘Baby’s Coming Back To Me’ draws tears from the French and Brits alike, while ‘Black Magic’ pounds with anthemic, stratospheric glory.

There’s little doubt about tonight’s most glorious moment, though. Stalking back onstage for an encore, Jarvis Cocker manages to smash the language barrier with six steel-toed words that scream through the venue: “Cunts are still running the world”. Conducted by JC’s lanky limbs, an international audience punch the air with fury and bile, in raging agreement at this assessment of the political landscape. Perhaps Jarv’s right about the cunts, but if he was willing to lead the fight back, tonight – we’d march with him. Jarvis Cocker: weirdo, geek, poet, champion. Vive la resistance!

Alex Miller