Jarvis: Shockwaves NME Awards Shows, Astoria, London: Saturday, February 17

Jarvis: Shockwaves NME Awards Shows, Astoria, London: Saturday, February 17

No Pulp hits, but stand-up, balloons and Black Sabbath covers galore

In a week when bullets began to fly again in London’s badlands, political commentators were two-a-penny. But for the Astoria faithful tonight, there’s only one man who can X-ray the soul of modern Britain. With a flurry of outsized limbs and horny glasses, Jarvis arrives onstage. “This goes out to south London,” he announces, before launching into the tale of his own mugging at the hands of the broiling underclasses, ‘Fat Children’.

After four years of “retirement”, England’s kitchen sink messiah walks among us again. JC may not be Jesus, but tonight’s like a second coming. Despite proclaiming himself “a middle-aged man trying to hold on to his hair”, he still jerks with teenage vitality, like a marionette, hauling himself backwards across the stage in that inimitable Sheffield stick-insect version of the moonwalk. Tonight, the watery acoustics of the rest of his debut receive some amped-up crunch, comfortably reaching the eager ears of the Astoria’s higher balconies. ‘Heavy Weather’ turns from drizzle into a dazzling thundercrack, while ‘Disney Time’ expands so much on its airless paedophile creep-factor that it’s in danger of being hounded by the News Of The World.

The scarcity of crowd singalongs (something a Pulp hit would rectify, but we dream in vain), is made up for by witty-but-bizarre banter (“I heard Sophie Ellis Bextor was found dead in a Parisian hotel”), love notes passed onstage, “the least appropriate deployment of balloons” and an impromptu pub quiz.

If further proof was needed that Jarv works like a pro, it’s packed into an encore boasting ‘Running The World’, Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’ and, er… Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’. JC asks if we’re “vibing”. In the midst of these dark times, the answer is a resounding yes.

Gavin Haynes