In inimitable Pulp style, it was billed as “The day that (almost) never happened. A journey back to where it began. May the circle be unbroken - tissues optional.”
At 8:30pm on Saturday 8 December 2012, after eight years of hiatus followed by a triumphant reunion in 2011 at a number of festivals, the Jarvis Cocker-fronted band finally - FINALLY - took to a stage in Sheffield again.
Eschewing the traditional support band slots, a number of Pulp’s home movies, dating back as far as 1978, were shown to build up the anticipation for the 13,000+ people in the Motorpoint Arena.
Like an outstretched rubber band about to snap, the tensions couldn’t have gotten much greater. Green lasers spelt words across the front of the stage. “Shall we do it?”. Yes! “Shall we?”. Oh, yes!
Over the screams of the excited Sheffield gig-goers, you could almost hear those written words as if they were coming straight out of Cocker's mouth. “Ok, let’s do it……”
Giant neon lights, styled in the familiar tube-like logos of distant album covers, flickered on one-by-one, spelling out the name of the band. P. U. L. P. All of a sudden the tension snapped. The day that almost never happened, was happening. The band asked ‘Do you remember the first time?’
Posted across the venue were notices that the event was being filmed. Later it transpired that award-winning director Florian Habicht was recording it for a documentary.
That 90-minute movie debuted this weekend at South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual music, film and interactive conference event in Austin, Texas.
Instead of a straight-up concert film the documentary, itself called ‘Pulp’, takes the time to explore the band’s relationship with their hometown (and vise versa).
As well as discussing the themes of those crafted lyrics that frame the city, filmmakers have interviewed a number of people around Sheffield to speak of how they relate to the songs of Pulp.
Its an intertwined love-letter of sorts, from the band to its home city and from Sheffield to the band. The concert clips pull it all together, complete with Cocker and colleagues adding commentary around the songs and the performance itself.
On viewing the film preview, the San Jose Mercury News called it ‘a smash,’ saying: “The ties that bind grow more apparent as the film progresses, until it's impossible not to see how this Northern England city of some 500,000 people, with a strong working class and much history in the Industrial Revolution, colours and informs nearly every Pulp song.
“It's a film about the synergy between a band and its hometown. It's original. It's poignant. And it's certainly worth your time.”
The Hollywood Reporter also enjoyed the screening: “The director employs outsourcing methods, roaming the street of Sheffield, making the city a key character in the narrative.
“Habicht visits iconic locations mentioned in Pulp lyrics and meets an eccentric gallery of locals including newspaper vendors, fishmongers, knife-makers and schoolchildren, all of whom share their warm feelings about the band. “The people of Sheffield” are credited in the opening cast list.”
Critics are seemingly unanimous with praise for the documentary, the only real negative comments being that the concert performance itself probably does not feature enough.
But like the 11pm curfew that stopped Pulp short on the night of the gig itself (set lists have since shown that five planned songs had to be jettisoned to conform with the venue’s finish time), you’re rightfully left wanting more.
‘Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets’ is due to screen at cinemas in June and will be followed later by a DVD/Blu-Ray release. (We hope that any such release also features the full-length concert so we can re-live that amazing evening in full as well as enjoy the brilliant documentary itself.)
Did you go along to the concert? Are you looking forward to the documentary? Have your say in the comments below!
Bonus video: Jarvis Cocker returns to school (The City School, Sheffield):