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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Shepherds Bush Empire, London, November 26th 2008
(SPECIAL WARNING - As Kate, WF's excellent London-based photographer (aka The Photographer), didn't provide us with any photographs at all, we're afraid we were obliged to hand-pick two or three ourselves. - Ed.)
It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Rough Trade (Records that is, not the shops of the same name) which despite its slightly chequered history remains one of the most influential independent labels in the UK, with a hall of fame that includes artistes as diverse as Aztec Camera, The Smiths, Pere Ubu, Subway Sect, British Sea Power and Robert Wyatt. And of course Whiskyfun favourite and Francophile Jarvis Cocker, who’s been on the road with his ‘Looking Rough at Thirty’ tour. Kitty
Jarvis writes: “Rough Trade has always been about discovering the new, exploring the unknown & giving a voice to those who would otherwise remain unheard. And they’re still doing it 30 years on. This is no dewy-eyed nostalgia trip – it’s an on-going revolution. Stand up & be counted! (Actually, comfortable seating IS available in most of the venues – should you require it)”. Not quite true. We’re crammed into the back of the standing area at the Shepherds Bush Empire, with a very happy crowd of sardines, the Photographer not even able to reach the camera, let alone get a picture. At one point she does manage a glimpse of Mr Cocker’s knee, and possibly his long socks.
Eiffel Jarvis is here with some new band members, some new songs, and a new, leaner, stripped-down sound, as is becoming fashionable in these recessionary times (how, I wonder, might bands like Radiohead fare in these less extravagant times, when ‘back to basics’ may become the musical rule once more?). He’s also got a projector and some Powerpoint slides. Looking like a comprehensive school art teacher, with beard and shambolic suit, he gives us a short lecture early in the set on the history of the Bush, from Music Hall via BBC Studio to its current use. Later he returns to the subject of Rough Trade, but it’s not the label that is his focus but rather the shop, which leads him into a discourse on retailing, the credit crunch, and of course our new Westfield Shopping Centre, a gigantic cathedral to Mamon which has just opened round the corner, with valet parking and – wait for it – ‘deluxe dining’. For Jarvis fans these apparently rambling interludes, which are often very cleverly constructed segues (as they say in Italy) into the next song (although pity the poor drummer who missed his cue), are just as important as the music – few artists are indulged quite as much by their audience as Mr Cocker.
But the songs aren’t bad. From the eponymous Jarvis we’re given (as I recall) ‘Don’t let him waste your time’, ‘Fat children’, ‘Big Julie’, ‘Tonite’ and a rousing ‘Cunts are still ruling the world’ – everyone seemed to know the words to that one. The new songs would all fall into the category of ‘promising’ – some much more so than others. But we enjoyed ‘Caucasian Blues’, ‘Never told you’, ‘Further complications’, ‘I’m not deep I’m profoundly shallow’, ‘Girls like it too’ and ‘A fucking song’, the content of which should be self-explanatory – well, more or less. There’s a new album here – more or less – which promises to be very good and probably much in tune with the moment of 2009. Whether or not the Shaft meets Barry White finale, ‘I don’t want to loose you’ makes the cut remains to be seen (the Yorkshire accent isn’t somehow quite as persuasive as the late Isaac Hayes’ Memphis drawl). But it seemed to work on the night, as live concert gave way to discothèque (remember those Serge?) for those who wanted to celebrate the birthday long into the night.

Now you’ll remember what a considerate performer Mr Cocker is. Time was when he’d happily share his cigarettes with the audience, in the absence of which he was happy to hand round his glass of ‘medicinal’ Scotch. But in between sips I managed to ask him my burning question of the night: “What should I buy my mum for Christmas, Jarvis?”. I should have guessed the answer. “Black Magic, yeah yeah yeah!” - Nick Morgan

Listen: Jarvis Cocker's MySpace page


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