Meeting up with Pulp in the years 2023 and 2024

Pulp on stage, with a large multi-coloured Pulp logo on the screen behind them

I went to just two concerts in 2023, and they were both of Pulp’s performances in Scotland. Pulp were my first favourite band, when Common People was released when I was 9 years old.

I first saw them back in 2012, during their first reunion. But at the time, it might have been expected to be one of their last ever concerts, a homecoming in Sheffield.

Over a decade on, the 2023 reincarnation of Pulp seems less final. Jarvis Cocker seems to have decided to focus on performing over his broadcasting career, and the general vibe about Pulp suggests they’re not about to stop.

Trnsmt in Glasgow

TRNSMT stage with the crowd awaiting Pulp. Large maroon curtains are drawn across the stage. The screen reads: "THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR AN ENCORE"

I couldn’t convince anyone to come to Trnsmt in Glasgow to see them play, so I went by myself. It was the best time I have ever had at a concert. The show was slick, at times seeming virtually planned to the second, yet somehow still feeling spontaneous.

The genius element was playing Disco 2000 early in the set. This gave me and the rest of the crowd a frenetic energy that never subsided until the end of the night.

As everyone around me belted out the lyrics with questionable tone but infectious enthusiasm, I realised I was surrounded by fellow 30- and 40-somethings who were transported back to their youth.

Unpick these layers of nostalgia. We were all standing in a field in 2023, singing a song about the year 2000 set in the 1970s, as if it was 1995.

Red confetti falling on the crowd basking in the glow of red lighting from the stage
Full disclosure: This confetti is from the performance of Babies, not Disco 2000

As Disco 2000 climaxed, confetti cannons shot paper ribbons across the ecstatic crowd. As I watched it rain down on us, I thought to myself, for a split second, “This is the happiest I have ever been in my life.” I immediately felt guilty for that thought, considering my wedding and the birth of my daughter. Just as quickly, I decided to stop worrying and enjoy the show for the next 90 minutes.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

When it was announced that Pulp would be playing the Edinburgh Hogmanay concert in Princes Street Gardens, I was torn. On the one hand, I have always fancied doing Hogmanay in Princes Street. So on paper it would have been a slam-dunk decision to go given that one of my favourite bands were playing the concert.

But I also wanted to spend new year with my family. There is also the imperative to save money given the imminent arrival of our second child.

In the end, I made the last-minute decision to go to the concert. Alex encouraged me to go, although it was the first time we have not spent new year together in nearly 10 years of being together. We still did a fake new year for the kids, and our daughter was tucked up in bed before I set off for the concert.

Fireworks exploding from the castle, above the Edinburgh's Hogmanay stage. The big screen reads: "This is a night you will remember for the rest of your life"

Although it was ostensibly 80% the same set as in Glasgow, Pulp at Hogmanay is a fundamentally different proposition. The sound and the view wasn’t quite as good in the compromised location of Princes Street Gardens, a tightly-squeezed city-centre park that was once an open air sewer. And the fact is that even the headline act is playing second fiddle to the new year itself.

So the Pulp concert was interrupted two-thirds of the way through to make way for a cheesy new year countdown. (There was no sign of the Pulp song Countdown, to the disappointment of the geekier fans.)

The fireworks were very impressive. But the full-length rendition of Auld Lang Syne, which no-one knew the words to even though they were displayed on the screen, could have been curtailed after the second verse.

Before too long though, it was back to the Pulp concert. Disco 2000 had been shuffled away from the start of the concert to become the opener of the new year. It was, of course, the only thing to do.

But its omission from the opening of the concert itself, along with the general distraction of the new year, meant the overall energy levels were just not what I experienced in Glasgow.

The big screen and a portion of the stage has two bagpipers visible on both. On the stage, the bagpipers are standing at the top of some steps. Jarvis Cocker can be seen dancing at the front. Other band members are also visible.

But the second section of the evening brought some incredible surprises that made up for it all. The performance of a new song, Background Noise, was followed by rare outings for Lipgloss and Monday Morning. And then, the finale, Common People, saw two bagpipers take centre stage for the climax of the show!

So I feel like I saw two quite different shows, and in the end I’m glad I saw Pulp twice in 2023 (and once in 2024 already).

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