Picture House, Edinburgh
Jarvis Cocker knows the pop game well enough to understand the power of
subverting a rock and roll cliché. Bounding onstage in charity shop threads and brand new beard, he mimes a flamboyant greeting as the words, ‘Good evening, Edinburgh’ are projected behind him. Someone chucks a sombrero onstage, which Cocker gamely sports, looking like an off duty geography teacher just back from a 1970s package tour. In-between songs, he talks us through a slideshow of Edinburgh, from the Tattoo (“the only time I’ve wanted to commit a terrorist atrocity,” he says), to The Picture
House’s former guise as the Caley Palais. Cocker follows his ninety minute set of Pulp-free wares by DJ-ing old school hip hop.
Such waggishly charming diversions make for a great show, and also point up what an interesting stage Cocker’s solo career is at just now. Because, while the songs lifted from his debut album and the new ones premiered here retain a deadpan kitchen-sink wit of old, they’re arranged in such an ordinary fashion as to sound plodding. Much of this is down to an anonymous band which, even with ex Pulp bassist Steve Mackey in the ranks, has little personality for Cocker to rub up against. Morrissey had a similar problem in the early days of his post Smiths career, and it’s interesting to note how that singer has recently come to terms with his back catalogue.
Give Cocker a couple of years and this may happen to him too. In the meantime, we should all be grateful for Running The World, the cheekiest, most simplistic four-lettered political anthem of the moment. For Cocker, it’s a triumph.
The Herald, December 1st 2008