Pulp play an electrifying headline set at Neighbourhood Weekender

The band are only just getting started on their This Is What We Do For An Encore tour

This is real, read the screens on either side of the Neighbourhood Weekender mainstage. This is hardcore. This is a night you will remember for the rest of your life.

When Jarvis Cocker appears onstage, rising slowly up from underneath it, silhouetted against a giant full moon, he echoes the sentiment. “We are Pulp. You are Warrington. We are real. We’re not avatars, we’re not powered by Artificial Intelligence, but we can perform magic.”

The crowd in Victoria Park – predictably the densest and loudest crowd of the entire weekend – are ready for whatever this looks like. It’s already a wonderfully surreal display, from Cocker’s striking entrance, to the string group seated on the left of the stage making harmonious work of opener ‘I Spy’, to the warm fuzz on the screens. The effect makes it feel as if we have followed Cocker and the rest of the group back in time.

@ticketmasteruk An encore worth waiting for 🙌🏻 #pulp #disco2000 #neighbourhoodweekender ♬ original sound – Ticketmaster UK

Pulp last performed in Victoria Park in 1996. Were any of us there, back then, Cocker asks? There are cheers, but also astonished laughs from the teenagers in the crowd for whom pre-2000 seems a different age. Or, as one girl mutters – “I wasn’t even a sperm then.” Still, when the band break into ‘Disco 2000’, the response amongst the younger demographic is electric. “Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?” scream groups of sixth formers, as Cocker dances across the stage in his velvet suit.

Cocker remains an enigmatic figure onstage, a true performer, as excited as any fan to get this ‘encore’, as the band have called it. He acts out each lyric as if to make sure we’re truly hearing him. His dancing is angular and deliberate, the camera following him as he climbs up and down the steps, still fuzzy and faintly orange. He takes a moment before every song to check in with the audience and have a chat or share a story. ‘Dishes’ feels like a continuation of one of these intervals, with Cocker pacing thoughtfully down the length of the stage, gently gesticulating. But whilst there are brief moments of pause, there are virtually none of rest. Pulp may have an hour and a half set to get through, but Cocker is unconcerned with conserving his energy. The sun begins to set. “Now the rave begins,” he announces.

Pulp - Common People

The band have created a true spectacle for their latest comeback, vibrant and playful throughout, occasionally surprising. Green and red lasers scan the crowd. Colourful graphics nod to specific lyrics and psychedelic colour-changing sets house the band and orchestra. Amidst it all, Cocker holds his own, the visuals around him only secondary to his performance. A brief interlude sees red curtains part to reveal a chandelier, Cocker climbing the steps to sit briefly beneath it in an armchair and pose whilst the strings buzz beneath him and the band launches into ‘This Is Hardcore’. He lounges for only few seconds before he’s on his feet again, posing with the cord of the mic thrown over his shoulder like a scarf.

There is an encore to the encore, of course, three songs that Cocker delivers as if this were the very last night of the tour rather than just the beginning. When Pulp close out with – what else? – ‘Common People’, he leads the packed field in a singalong so loud that Manchester and Liverpool must be ringing with it. Even after all of it, there’s a feeling that his crowd would stand in this field for another hour if Cocker would fill it. They don’t want to let him go.

Pulp are playing UK dates throughout the summer, as well as headlining TRNSMT and Latitude festivals. Find Pulp tickets here.