Pulp at Radio City Music Hall

Radio City. All photographs by author.

As much as I loved them, I never got the chance to see Pulp during their early-mid-nineties heyday. Even when they announced they would be reforming to play a few dates last year, it seemed like it was just not meant to be — the first summer in three years that I didn’t spend time in Sweden, and they played there, at the Way Out West festival.

I might have missed out again if my friend Strippertweets hadn’t posted a link to their website announcement that they would play San Francisco and New York City. I agonised over whether to see them in SF or NY; furiously battled Ticketmaster’s website to get a ticket for a show that sold out within one minute, booked a flight and ultimately spent way too much money to see one band. It was worth it. I was not going to miss Pulp again.

While the all-seated space of Radio City doesn’t much lend itself to crowd participation, it was a treat to be inside of the venue. I was standing in the line for a glass of champagne (socialism?) when green letters began flashing across the stage: “You’re looking good.” “Shall we do it?” A couple of lines from Mis-Shapes spoken in a mechanical voice, then the those spacey, synth-y first bars of Do You Remember the First Time? (my first favourite Pulp track) struck up and hung in the air for a minute. Then there was Jarvis: stalking sleazily across the stage; bouncing and kicking as the song built — the whole crowd seemed to leap at that part near the end that goes “oh yeah, you wanna go home; you wanna go home. Hey!”

Between songs Jarvis regaled his audience with stories, musings, “interesting facts,” the riff from Louie Louie and London Soho/Charing Cross geography. “you haven’t come here for a night of spoken word have you? Sorry.’

During This is Hardcore he fell to his back and scissored his legs in the air; in F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E he dashed and posed his way up the sides of the hall, followed by a spotlight.

Even songs that might have sat awkwardly out of their mid-nineties home sounded just about as relevant as they were then. Sorted for E’s and Whizz, a song I haven’t listened to for probably 10 years but still know all the words to, sounded great accompanied by green lasers swooping across the crowd; and I sang along to the chorus of Disco 2000 (“Let’s all meet up in the year 2000”) with neither shame nor regard for the passage of time.

The first encore ended, inevitably, with Common People, and the night finished with Mis-Shapes — a song I don’t care much for, but danced and sang along to regardless. Post-match analysis, however, centered on the unexpected inclusion of Bad Cover Version, from 2002’s much-maligned We Love Life.

In the end, I only missed Lipgloss, but I didn’t even notice it was missing until a few hours later, so… This was everything I wanted from a Pulp show and more. And I don’t mean just for a reunion tour; Pulp could have been proud of this show in 1995.

Setlist via Brooklyn Vegan:

Pulp @ Radio City Music Hall, NYC 4/11/12 – SETLIST
Do you remember the the first time?
Monday Morning
Razzamatazzz
Pencil skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted For E’s and Wizz
F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.
Feeling Called Love
I Spy
Babies
Underwear
This is Hardcore
Sunrise
Bar Italia
Common People
//
Like a Friend
Bad Cover Version
Misshapes

Related: apparently the mid-nineties Hole line-up was back on stage last weekend. Reunion tour please?

A Cultural Reference: Helsinki

The way I travel.

Before I leave for a place I like to read about it; see it in a movie. When I leave, I like to hang on to the memories of a place through music, tastes, pictures. So, I take photographs, fill my bags with food and download tracks by local artists.

I only spent a week in Helsinki and yet, we have this connection, Helsinki and I. My jar of lingonberry jam, bags of Salmiakki and bottles of Lonkero are finished, but I can still imagine myself there through books, films and music.

Film: The Man Without a Past

Whenever someone asks me what film I want to watch I immediately think of The Man Without a Past. I could watch it every day without tiring. In this film by Aki Kaurismäki a man falls asleep in a Helsinki park, is beaten by thugs and declared dead in hospital. He wakes up, with no memory, and leaves the hospital of his own will and is taken in by a complete stranger to start his life from scratch. The man finds an old jukebox, inspires a group of musicians and falls in love with a Salvation Army worker.

I hate to use this word, but it is charming. The main character carves out a simple life, free from history and memory. For a while it seems like life really could be so simple.

Kaurismäki also directed Leningrad Cowboys Go America and pseudo-film noir, Lights in the Dusk.

Books: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and Lang: A Novel of Suspense

Most of Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name takes place in, as the title suggests, the far north of Finland. There is a brief section, however, when Clarissa first arrives in Helsinki from America and has an awkward encounter with a young hotel worker that just reeks of loneliness and the sense of feeling out of sorts and lost in a place that you don’t quite know why you came to.

Kjell Westö is a Finnish author who writes in Swedish — it is sometimes quite jarring to remember that there is a large Swedish-speaking Finnish population, and to realise that the street signs in Helsinki are in both languages. Lang is a character study of an arrogant television personality, just past his peak, and his childhood friend that appears out of the past. The book is suspenseful; menacing, and a page turner.

Music: Husky Rescue, Rubik, Manna and Islaja

Islaja sounds glacial; Rubik, melodious; Manna is rock n’ roll sass, and Husky Rescue, cinematic.

Ruoholahti, Helsinki

Hawaii Music Monday: Bari Bari 13

On my last visit to Tokyo it seemed like the rockabilly-guys-in Yoyogi-Park phenomenon was fading. Well, there was just this guy one time:

…So I was delighted to find out that Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll is not dead, it lives in Honolulu and it’s name is Bari Bari 13!

Tommy (Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals), Shingo (Bass Guitar and Vocals) and Kenji (Drums and Vocals) dress in black leather and dark sunglasses, even in dark, sweaty Anna Bannanas where I saw them last, exhort the crowd to Rock ‘n’ Roll while their cute-enough-to-eat girlfriends and wives throw pre-arranged dance moves in the front row. Shingo also tends to take his top off after a couple of numbers.

Bari Bari 13 at Anna Bannanas February 13th

Bari Bari 13! Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever!!!!

Hawaii Music Monday: GRLFRNDS

GRLFRNDS at Anna Bannanas 2/26

“It’s a long and complicated story about how the punks took over the dance floor and the dance floor took over the punks.” So says the blurb on GRLFRNDS’ Myspace page, which also lists some very tasty influences: The Clash, Joy Division, New Order, M83 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Anyway, GRLFRNDS are Nick Ross (guitar), Alex Kaiser (vocals), Jake Achitoff (synth), Nate McCurdy (drums), Ryan (bass) and, I think, one of the most exciting bands playing in Honolulu right now. Their synth-heavy, high-energy, dancey, punky sound brings to mind the neon-saturated days of British post-punk, New Wave–the lead singer even adopts a convincing British accent when he sings. GRLFRNDS’ live shows will make you want to dance. They will dance. Alex throws some moves on stage while wrapping the mic cord around his neck and Ryan looks like he might hurt himself he’s bouncing around so furiously. Nick plays so hard his fingers bleed (see above photo) but Jake, well, he just chills with his synth by the side.

This Week in Honolulu

News: The Star-Bulletin’s owner bought the Advertiser David Black will try to find a buyer for the Star-Bulletin, or otherwise shut the paper down. This doesn’t look good; Honolulu is looking like becoming a one-paper city and there’s certain to be lay-offs.

We dodged a tsunami Luckily those sirens and evacuations turned out to just be a precaution.

By Night: ARTafterDARK returned after a three-month break. Last night’s event reflected the current exhibition on view at the Academy of Arts until July 3rd, Mad For Modern: From Whistler to Warhol. Clones of the Queen played in the Courtyard, while DJ Nicky Savage was at the Pavilion. There were docent-led zip tours, live figure sketching by artist Lauren Roth and, of course, yummy food and drinks–thanks to Town/Downtown.

GRLFRNDS played Anna Bannanas on Friday; they were actually opening for Choda but I left before them. A few tuning difficulties couldn’t stop them. This band has some of the most energetic performers–bassist Ryan at one point jumped onto the dancefloor, while still playing, then did this crazy back-bend over the rail; the guitarist’s fingers were bleeding over the strings. Not the synth-player though; he just kinda stands there.

Hawaii Music Monday: The Hell Caminos

The Hell Caminos at Anna Bannanas February 19th

The Hell Caminos are a Psychobilly band whose music mixes rockabilly, punk and swing. Band members are Michael Camino (upright bass), Nick Danger (guitar), and Handsome Jack (drums).

From January 2009 they took a long hiatus, returning in January 2010 with a typically manic show at The Loft in Chinatown, where they opened for L.A band Spooky. Their world, they say, is full of voodoo roads, slinky dames, and cheap honkytonks.

A Hell Caminos live show is high-energy and always feels like it is on the edge of something. It’s a twitchy, unsettling feeling that fits their description of themselves as “living on caffeine, sleep deprivation and women.” I love the upright bass, which Michael lifts up and spins around. Oh yeah and all the band members are not too hard on eyes at all. The crowd at their shows is also a beautiful sight; lots of gorgeous tattooed girls in cool dresses.

I caught them this past Friday at Anna Bannanas. They were up before the ska band Black Square and the show was part of the ‘Last Days of Annas’ series: a bunch of live shows that will run until Annas tragically closes this April.

Fever Ray in Stockholm

It rained from before we arrived until after we left. It did not stop raining. I got a cold. The rain made my cold worse. I was miserable. We lined up by the stage to wait and our feet sank into the mud as the announcer told us she was not coming on for another half hour.
Then she arrived and it was worth all of it. Fever Ray’s performance at the Where the Action is Festival in Stockholm on Saturday night was spellbinding: costumes out of a child’s story-book, vocal pitches that varied from sweet and child-like to threatening and monstrous and a dreamy laser you could lose yourself in.