Pulp Singer Squeezes Out Juicy Performance

Frontman Jarvis Cocker struts his way through a powerful, provocative night of Hardcore music.

NEW YORK -- Perhaps this is selfish, but I don't think that men -- or at

least not straight men -- should have been allowed on the floor at the

Hammerstein Ballroom on Tuesday night.

With porno, Penthouse and now Viagra, aren't they given enough means

for sexual arousal in our culture?

To women -- or at least to this woman -- rock stars are sexual icons, and singer

Jarvis Cocker has proven himself one of the more sacred.

His hands should be rated NC-17, his shoulders should be viewed with

parental discretion and his hips -- well, I couldn't see them because there were

men in front of me.

Of course, Pulp's music is powerful in its own right and men deserve to enjoy it,

but couldn't they do that just as well from the balcony?

Cocker strutted his fey sensuality through an utterly captivating 105-minute set

that primarily included songs from Pulp's latest release, This Is Hardcore,

and their previous album, Different Class (1995), which, after going at it

for 17 years, finally made them sensations in their native England.

While Cocker exuded glamour -- slinking his skinny 6-foot-2-inch body across

the stage, provocatively dangling his microphone above his face and down his

back, emphasizing every word with his own highly sophisticated sign-language

-- the non-Cocker members of the band, including bassist Steven Mackey and

keyboardist Candida Doyle, stood around him, humble henchmen not daring to

attract attention away from their leader and founder -- for this, may God bless

them.

Still, their musicianship shone through, proving Pulp to be even more than

Cocker's snarl and wry, witty lyrics. The set opened with

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Pulp/The_Fear.ram">"The Fear"

(RealAudio excerpt), a song that sums up the band's mission. ("This is the

sound of someone losing the plot/ making out that they're OK when they're not/

you're gonna like it -- but not a lot.")

Pulp songs look at amusement, loss, sexual longing, alienation and class

conflict through eyes glazed over with experience. Yet, performed live, these

vignettes became more than just irony. They were sincere fun with great

moments, including "F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.," "Party Hard," "Help the

Aged,"

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Pulp/Live_Bed_Show.ram">"Live Bed

Show" (RealAudio excerpt), "Sorted for E's & Wizz" and "I'm a Man."

Cocker accompanied the band on acoustic guitar for "TV Movie" and for

the one Pulp song that can actually be described as pretty, "Something

Changed," a rare romantic story woven without a trace of sarcasm.

In between songs, Cocker engaged the audience jokingly, sometimes

mockingly, but no one seemed to mind. He asked if anyone in the audience had

tried Viagra, the latest prescription sexual stimulant (for men, of course). "The

problem is up here," he told the crowd, pointing to his head, "and not down

there." 'Nuff said.

For all his legendary bitterness, Cocker seems to be delighting in pop stardom

-- when the sweat that told a delicious tale on his shirt throughout the evening

began to be too much, he wiped his face with a towel and threw it into the

audience. I don't know what became of that towel, but I would be willing to make

a handsome offer.

Following the set, the band came back for two encores, kicking off with the epic

"This

is Hardcore" (RealAudio excerpt) and the very clever "Dishes" -- "I am

not Jesus, though I have the same initials/ I am the man who stays at home and

does the dishes" -- Cocker's response to fans in England who took to wearing

shirts proclaiming Cocker to be the Messiah. Despite his coy denials, it's clear

that he is blessed with some rare divinity.

When "Glory Days" melted into the band's anthem, "Common People," all of

34th Street shook. At least, it felt that way. Thankfully for many of us, two of the

band's most erotically charged songs, "Pencil Skirt" and "Underwear" -- both

about getting naked with already-spoken-for partners -- were left off the setlist

that night.

Had they been included, I fear what the woman next to me, who sucked her

thumb throughout the performance, would have done.

But the men -- even the straight ones -- enjoyed themselves, too; dancing,

flailing their beefy, un-Cockerlike arms, even chanting "Jarvis, Jarvis," and, as

much as I hate to admit it, I guess I can understand why.

Tuesday night, Jarvis Cocker gave more than just music.

Considering that he's the frontman for Pulp, that's being awfully generous.