The thinker and the inker

Jarvis in action for the last time?: The thinking man's group, Pulp, at Leeds Festival.               Pictures: Tracey Welch
Jarvis in action for the last time?: The thinking man's group, Pulp, at Leeds Festival. Pictures: Tracey Welch

IT is safe to say few bandleaders would bother to regale 70,000 people with how they nearly choked on a pear.

Then until this summer it has been a good while since music had an iconic character like Jarvis Cocker address a major British festival.

The heavily-tattooed Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon.               Pictures: Tracey Welch

The heavily-tattooed Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon. Pictures: Tracey Welch

Pulp – Sheffield’s most successful ‘indie’ band – chose Leeds Festival for what could be the final show of their comeback/testimonial season.

And we were swiftly reminded how music has missed both the quirkyness of a man increasingly resembling a maths teacher and the oddball missives of a band that tackled all those awkward subjects so-called cool bands kept clear of; songs such as Babies, Mis-Shapes, Do You Remember The First Time.

“We are Pulp, you are Leeds,” announced Cocker, ever the showman with his blend of curious hand movements and leggy stage stalking as they surged through Razzmatazz and Pink Glove with the offer to keep the crowd warm on an unreasonably chilly night.

It is 16 years since Pulp headlined their first festival in Leeds. Many hits, one hiatus and a beard later the return at Leeds over New York’s The Strokes seemed almost too much for the pheromone-plagued singer: “These security guys are not here to stop you getting to me… they are here to keep me from you.”

Somewhat inevitably, fellow Sheffielder and former Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley re-joined the line-up for the last part of the set, the moody, cinematic This Is Hardcore heralding the arty bit of a show in which Jarvis got fresh with an amp stack and ultimately concluded with the song that changed the band from also-rans to iconic Brit globe-trotters, namely Common People.

Whether Pulp do ever grace a festival stage again is doubtful, but there’ll be plenty able to boast: “Do you remember the last time?”

While Cocker’s “jacket on or off” dilemma for Disco 2000 raised eyebrows so too did Oli Sykes’ decision to bring his dad on for a ‘duet’.

This was a rare sign of softness from the heavily-inked singer with Sheffield’s other major contribution to the weekend, namely metal band Bring Me The Horizon, also hell- bent on instigating the biggest circle pit of the weekend.

With two thirds of the festival hit by rain or wind, it took the mighty Muse to defy the elements with a bombastic display that saw the band – featuring Rotherham bassist Chris Wolstenholme – apparently melt part of the stage with their pyrotechnics.

Earlier Friendly Fires soundtracked a brief hint of summer while Scots rockers The View seemed to revel in English kids being bombarded by “their kind” of weather.

It took increasingly strong thighs to march through sucking mud to a Radio 1/NME Stage which sported the likes of Chapel Club, the wonderful Bombay Bicycle Club, and Beady Eye, fronted by the tired swagger and slightly laughable sneer of Liam Gallagher.

Nothing was more grin-raising than Jared Leto’s white cult leader cassock for a 30 Seconds To Mars set that struggled to flow thanks to the film star’s attempts to rabble rouse.

With his bright red hair and Jacko-style leathers, Gerard Way had more luck with Saturday headliners My Chemical Romance as The Horrors tested fan loyalty during a brief power cut.

NME-maligned Mona answered their critics by filling the marquee bearing the magazine’s name ahead of The Vaccines and following a supremely confident Miles Kane.

Madness – looking unlikely between Jimmy Eat World and a delirious Two Door Cinema Club – did their best to create a sun dance, getting cold feet warm with the enduring Baggy Trousers and more.