Live Review

Rough At 30: Jarvis Cocker, Sheffield Academy

An event which aims to be completely unpredictable, exciting and inspiring; exactly what will keep Rough Trade in business for years to come.

For their 30th anniversary Rough Trade could have had their pick of the biggest acts from the last five years. Having been responsible for the releases of The Smiths, The Libertines and Arcade Fire (a few among many) they are established as the biggest independent record label in the UK. So tonight to find the label’s anniversary tour will be headlined by Jarvis Cocker and Jeffrey Lewis is unusual but not surprising.

Always the underdog in his field, Jeffrey Lewis is one of the label’s more quirky characters. With his own comic books, homemade t-shirts and short films, it’s freshing to find a performer so DIY play a 2,000 capacity venue. Unfortunately tonight he’s left onstage fighting for attention as the venue quickly fills.

Among the stories about whales, adventures through America and biographies of Barack Obama, is a wonderful storytelling style that has the ability to whisk you away in seconds. As he whips out a huge notepad to take you through the history of Rough Trade it is understandable why he’s so loved over at the label. Oozing personality and a little off kilter, he’s a gem that should be preserved as long as Rough Trade itself.

Jarvis however is hoping a little of Jeffrey’s DIY ethics may rub off on him tonight. Promising a gig which is half lecture, half disco, he has some big statements to fulfil. Luckily, ambling onstage in a full beard and scruffy suit (‘honest opinions, I can pull it off, or is it a bit Peter Sutcliffe?’ he remarks) Jarvis is a born showman. As a huge screen appears behind him we are lead through a series of musical events throughout the years. Kickstarting with a collection of new songs, Jarvis is left to twist and turn in the spotlight as the new material takes a heavier route from his debut. Jumping and yelping about the stage, the songs burst effortlessly throughout the room as the six piece band carefully follow the singer’s lead.

Then with remote control and lecture stick in hand, rather than a history of Rough Trade, Jarvis takes us through a journey of his own experiences. We get his opinion on the English language, Take That and the blues, before the gig slowly reverts into a quiz on dinosaurs and Sheffield. It’s hugely entertaining, sometimes more than the music itself, making you wish Jarvis would resort to a spoken word gig from time to time. Finally taking us through a tour of Rough Trade, we hear ‘Running The World’ before a seven minute disco freak out. Leaving his band onstage, Jarvis then hops it over to the DJ decks as he bursts into a nineties inspired disco. It’s a little unexpected, but then we wouldn’t have it any other way. An event which aims to be completely unpredictable, exciting and inspiring is what will keep Rough Trade in business for years to come.

Photos: Andy Cook

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