Imagine Iggy Pop as a lounge singer in 1970s Vegas.
Now kill him.
Reanimate him with the rag-doll panache of Jack Skellington, and you’re somewhere in the vicinity of replicating what Jarvis Cocker is like as a live performer.
Last Monday, Pulp frontman Cocker brought his antics to a devastatingly undersold Wiltern Theater in support of his most recent and second solo effort, Further Complications.
After taking the stage with his hands over his face, palms outward and pen-scrawled with eyes a la the Pan’s Labyrinth monster, Cocker self-assuredly pointed at audience members and implausibly identified them by name in what was ultimately a preamble to “Angela,” the first of many of the night’s selections from his raison de tour.
As with Pulp, Cocker solo is at his best when delivering life coach-esque material wavering between profound and cheeky, and new material performed live such as “Slush” and “I Never Said I Was Deep” made good on all such expectations. The night, however, most definitely belonged to “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” and the “Crimson and Clover”-esque “Black Magic,” both from his solo debut, 2006’s Jarvis. “Don’t Let Him…” benefited from the contribution of an audience member who leapt on stage to add his own questionable dance maneuvers to the number. Ever the good sport, Cocker played along and even sashayed over to trade moves with the patron, who eventually saw himself off the stage. It wasn’t exactly a redux of Cocker’s own stage-storming of Michael Jackson’s 1996 BRIT awards performance, but the impromptu addition was appreciated by the Wiltern’s couple hundred attendees.
Cocker littered his hour-plus set with between-song banter which typically ended with some sort of entertaining punch line, rendering him every bit effective as a comedian as he is musician. It was with appropriate hilarity then, that a disco ball descended from the stage rafters as Cocker wound things down for the night by crooning through the roller rink-y “You’re In My Eyes (Discosong),” — an actually quite sad scenario about a has-been dance club regular who identifies a floater in his vision as the manifestation of a certain paramour from disco nights past.
Of course, that’s just hindsight, because the thing about any good Vegas showman is that while he’s hitting all the right beats and putting a smile on your face, he simultaneously distracts you from the delivery of truths which will tug on your heart’s scars until the music fades and they’re all that’s left echoing in your ears. And as absurd as it seems, since seeing Jarvis Cocker live, my floaters haven’t looked the same.