Glasgow Green


March 5, 1993 is forever branded into my brain cells.

It was the night I went to South Parade Pier in Portsmouth with a few hundred others to see a certain indie-dance crossover combo called St Etienne.

But it was not the Croydon-based band led by Sarah Cracknell that caught the eye and the ears.

It was a certain support act with a gangly, bespectacled front man that saw my jaw drop.

Who are they? Where are they from? I had to find out more.

That band were Pulp.

That is pre-Common People, pre-Britpop-stained Pulp.

The lead singer Jarvis Cocker looked like and sounded like an undiscovered star. He had all the performer moves and tunes that burnt a hole in your head.

"The trouble with your brooother, he's always sleepin... with your mooother," he cajoled in his broad Sheffield drawl. "And I know that your sister, missed her time again this month."

And so goes the start of  Razzamatazz, the song that introduced me to one of the great bands Britain has produced but more importantly, one of our greatest ever performers in Mr cocksure Cocker. The next day I was hotfooting it to whichever record shop was closest to get the single.

I waxed lyrical in the publication I was working for about how on earth this band was not huge, with big tunes and a captivating turn of phrase.

Tonight I am 450 miles further north, it is a little over 30 years later and this same band are headlining the first day of TRNSMT, the T in the Park replacement. Of course, in between time, they have hit the heights and the big arenas with the help of hit albums such as His 'n' Hers but particularly the Common People-spawning Different Class in 1995.

The Herald: Jarvis Cocker on stage at TRNSMTJarvis Cocker on stage at TRNSMT (Image: Gordon Terris)

For me, they are the main reason to be at this three-day festival in this green urban oasis, a few minutes walk from the Barras, home of one of the punters' and bands' favourite smaller venues in the UK, the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom - a spot not dissimilar to the one in the Hampshire naval port city that I was in all those years ago.

But this is not a few hundred souls, it is tens of thousands on grass - and they are not even in their pomp.

They came in all shapes and sizes, young, old, bearded, bald, boys and girls, men and women, grans and grandpas. So many who would never have been alive back in 1993. Common people, like you.

All to see Jarvis. Because he is, let's face it, the star of this show. A delightful, eccentric street poet, showman and 18 carat national treasure who looks far more comfortable in his own skin now then he did all those years ago.

"We are Pulp, you are Glasgow," Jarvis gushes after arriving from beneath the bowels of the plush stage. "We are spending time together. Thanks for being here."

Dressed in what looks like a purple velvet suit, he goes into deadpan mode as he utters the bleedin obvious but still makes it sound like some deep insight: "A concert is boring without an audience."

They have become the latest to reform for a reunion with no new material - but a clutch of scrape the sky bangers, sometimes thoughtful and moody and often breast-punchingly earworm epic.

The Herald: Pulp on stage at TRNSMT in GlasgowPulp on stage at TRNSMT in Glasgow (Image: Gordon Terris)

"I spy a boy, I spy a girl, I spy the worst place in the world," Cocker breathes as the band explodes into their first song since their last Glasgow show on this very same turf 11 year ago.

The only difference between Cocker now and then is his age. He maybe 60 in September, but the jerking geek dances, trademark swoonsome back-of-hand-on-head theatrics and foppish twists are never toned down.

This Is What We Do For An Encore, is the name of the comeback and this 16 or 17 song set takes us through the best and the beast of this singularly unorthodox band.

Disco 2000 may be seen as a retro time warp Britpop anthem but it comes in early in the set, and is delivered with all the ferocity and freshness of a new song. It is the first of many times the crowd would go 'here we f***in go' wild.

Always playing the eccentric he decides it is time to celebrate a birthday. It appears that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr is 83. So he leads a chorus of Happy Birthday before going into some of the beast of Pulp - the period where the band seemingly deliberately chose a path that was as far away from Britpop as they could make it.

This Is Hardcore, the title track of their follow up to the hugely successful breakthrough album Different Class is simply funereal; a creepy, startling commentary on fame using porn as an analogy that would and did leave lovers of the indie pop of Different Class cold. The album bombed in terms of sales.

But the title track here in all its orchestral, overblown majesty, its stark teasing hooks and screaming guitar 'chorus' with Jarvis spitting, "this is me on top of you", is simply breathtaking.

The oldest songs on show here are, to my mind, some of the best. Babies is a deliciously sleazy tale of teenage perversion that always makes me think of the wardrobe scene from the David Lynch classic movie noir Blue Velvet and it has a "yeah yeah yeah" finale that the audience happily screams out.

Jarvis remembers the first time he played Glasgow in 1992 with around 30 people at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut which of course leads neatly to one of the showstopping moments of their hour-and-a-half, Do You Remember The First Time?

After the heartstopping forgotten classic from Different Class, Underwear, comes the final song.

Jarvis, less fresh faced now, more dishevelled and grizzled, plays with the crowd. "Have we missed one out?  Pencil skirt?"

The familiar keyboard chime rings out, and Jarvis sings: "She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge..."

Beer flies into the air, something almost resembling a mosh pit starts up in front of me and there is mayhem as the anthem that has defined the band, Common People, erupts.

There was to be no Razzamatazz tonight. But in so many other ways, there certainly was.

Welcome back.