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  • Emma Roberts

This Is What They Do For An Encore: Pulp's Spectacular Return to Sheffield



When Pulp said a fond farewell to their fans in Sheffield 11 years ago at their last hometown gig, I did not think I’d ever get to experience seeing them live, especially not here in Sheffield.


Luckily for us, in 2023 they reunited and began playing festivals and shows again, including 2 hometown gigs at the Utilita Arena, Sheffield. There was a buzz around the streets of Sheffield on both Friday and Saturday evening, with a huge feeling of anticipation for what we were about to witness. Fans had travelled from across the world for this gig, and I felt so lucky that I was able to attend, with the added bonus that it was only 10 minutes from my flat!


Pulp were supported by Richard Hawley, a life-long friend, supporter and former musician in Pulp. Hawley really set the scene for the evening, playing to thousands his most well-known songs including ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ and ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’, which he recently won an Olivier Award for as part of the team behind the brilliant musical ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’.


Just after 9pm, the arena went dark and a huge cheer went up from the thousands who had gathered to witness this very moment. “This is what we do for an encore” was projected onto the side screens and stage, following on from the last gig they played here back in 2012. The curtain was slowly drawn back to reveal a giant full moon, and the opening chords to their first song ‘I-Spy’ echoed across the arena. As this was playing, the silhouette of Jarvis Cocker slowly emerged in front of the moon to the delight of the audience, which subsequently turned into a gloriously orange sun as the opening song progressed.


After greeting the crowd, Pulp quickly launched into one of their most popular songs, ‘Disco 2000’; complete with streamers which rained from the ceiling. The crowd were well and truly warmed up at this point, and Jarvis had them eating out of the palm of his hand, stopping in-between songs to interact with the crowd and discuss previous Sheffield gigs and share band stories from years gone by. As always, Jarvis was witty, friendly and made you feel like you were talking to a friend.


Sadly, before Pulp commenced their most recent tour, their bassist and long-time friend Steve Mackey sadly passed away. Jarvis acknowledged this during the gig, declaring that this tour was “something of a tribute” to their dear friend and band mate. He then went on to dedicate ‘Something Changed’ to Steve, which was a really emotional and special moment. You could see throughout the crowd people holding their loved ones whilst Jarvis serenaded them with the much-loved classic. It was amazing to see how much this band still means to this city, 40 years later.


Following on from this, Pulp played hit after hit, forming an impressive set list, including ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, ‘This Is Hardcore’, ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’, ‘Babies’, ‘Underwear’, and of course, Common People. Richard Hawley re-joined his former bandmates on stage to perform a rendition of ‘Sunrise’ as well as joining in with the iconic ‘Common People’, much to the crowds delight.


As Pulp stated at the beginning: ‘This is what we do for an encore’, and they certainly showed us what an encore should look like, finishing with not one, but two of them to end the night. Just when the audience thought it was all over and began to slowly file out of the area, Pulp re-appeared onto the stage and performed ‘After you’, ‘Razzmatazz’ and ‘Glory Days’.


The most striking part of this gig for me, despite the stellar setlist and performances, was just how visually beautiful it was. Jarvis Cocker is so much more than a musician, he is a true artist, a visionary, someone who is not afraid to stand out from the crowd and be different. These values were reflected in the set, with beautiful light displays and graphics for several songs, excerpts from old music videos and confetti and streamers galore. It was truly the best party I have ever attended.


I have been lucky enough to attend many concerts in my lifetime, but for me, this was by far the best one I have ever been to. Having discussed with others after the gig, they all agreed it was a beautiful, fun and special 2-hour performance. For some, this wasn’t their first time seeing Pulp, and for others including myself, this felt like the start of a true love affair with one of the best bands to emerge from Britain in the 90’s. The audience didn’t want it to end, and I don’t think Pulp wanted it to either. I hope this isn’t the last time Pulp play their hometown, and I dream of there being many encores still to come.



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