Featured image and gallery: Tom Martin (SJM Press)
The weather is bleak with clouds hanging in the sky, but that doesn’t stop the upbeat festival atmosphere as crowds form once again to see their favourite bands at Neighbourhood Weekender this bank holiday weekend. Still buzzing from yesterday’s excitement, the air is thick with anticipation ahead of Pulp’s return to the live festival stage tonight as the headline act for NBHD Day Two.
Kula Shaker and CMAT entertain the early birds as people flow into Victoria Park. Ella Henderson lights up the main stage, she’s come such a long way as an artist since her X-Factor days. Joined by her two backing singers in matching outfits, she takes centre stage with the presence and confidence of a true popstar in a dazzling zebra jumpsuit. She dances across the stage and calls on the audience to sing with her as she enters the chorus of ‘We Got Love’, her hit track with Sigala.
Her next single, Reac’ recently made it to the top five in the charts, and she takes this opportunity to thank everyone in the audience for supporting her. She then surprised the audience with a dance break during KSI’s rap in ‘Lighter’, her energy never waivers, and the audience cheers before the song slows for the next verse and she shows off her vocal range. She ends on a high with “the song that kicked everything off”, which is of course, ‘Ghost’. The number of people sat on the shoulders of others practically doubles, and the audience sings as loud as they can to the chart-topping hit.
Heading over to The Big Top stage, the all-female indie rock band, The Big Moon, take to the stage, wave a quick hello, and jump into their song ‘Cupid’. The song has a slow, melodic start, but when the heavy beat kicks in, it takes you by surprise, as you find yourself tapping your foot as the band kicks it up a notch. Shortly after, the tent erupts in cheers as The Reytons bring immediate energy to the stage, and drinks are launched into the air as the crowd gets even bigger, making the tent suddenly seem smaller. Fresh from celebrating their Number One album, What’s Rock and Roll?, the guitarists play to each other before turning to the screaming audience, where ‘Uninvited’ results in a mass mosh pit right down the centre of the crowd.
Kicking off the evening entertainment on the main stage, Sea Girls return to NBHD Weekender for the fifth time in style, with each band member rocking a denim jacket. During ‘Sick’, lead singer Henry Camamile crouches down on stage to sing the nostalgic lyrics, “Oh I wish I was just a child. Mum and dad, can you make me smile?.” The song has a different vibe from the band’s other songs and allows the audience to connect with them up close and personal. In a heartfelt moment, Camamile dedicates the next song, ‘All I Want To Hear You Say’, to his girlfriend and sings to her with the help of the crowd, who join in with every word.
Chart topping pop sensation Anne-Marie takes over The Big Top stage while most festival goers wait excitedly for Pulp. Attracting a generally younger demographic, the pop star takes to the stage by herself and puts on quite the show. It’s clear to see that she’s such a down-to-earth individual. Shes Always smiling and constantly joking and laughing with the crowd, so it feels like you’re just having coffee with her. Yet she could easily command the entire main stage at the snap of her fingers. But for now, she captivates the audience with her more intimate songs such as ‘Beautiful’ with Ed Sheeran and ‘Perfect To Me,’ where she sits on the very edge of the stage and sings directly into the crowd from the heart.
She describes her latest song ‘Unhealthy’ from her up-and-coming album (also called Unhealthy) as a “bit like a cowboy song”, and encourages everyone to wave their cowboy hats and swing their shirts around their heads like lassos. Within seconds of the chorus kicking in, across the tent, cowboy hats are lifted and makeshift lassos are swung to the beat.
‘Rockabye’ with Clean Bandit is up next, and before Anne-Marie can even start singing her own song, the audience takes over as she smiles in awe. Before the last few songs, she gets everyone in tight for a picture and joins in on an anti-tory chant that echoes throughout the tent. Then she jumps off stage and right to the front barrier for ‘FRIENDS’, high-fiving everyone along the front of the audience before being lifted back to the stage and singing the immediately recognisable ‘Psycho’ with Aitch to finish off her incredible set.
Deep red curtains block the stage from view as thousands of people huddle together at the main stage as the sun sets, impatiently waiting for the iconic return of Pulp. Dramatic music sets the scene and puts the audience in suspense: the anticipation is palpable in the air. Messages addressed to the crowd appear on the big screens as the music intensifies and the opening lyrics of ‘I Spy’ are sung by Jarvis Cocker, yet he is nowhere to be seen. The curtains begin to draw, and the image of a full moon lights up the back of the stage as Pulp finally comes into view as Cocker rises from below the stage for the band’s 524th concert. They prove their records are timeless, and their theatrical performance captivates the entire audience, from the very front of the crowd all the way to the back of the field. All falls silent for the band’s heartfelt tribute to the band’s late bass player, Steve Mackey, and emotion fills the air when Cocker announces they are “trying to do a concert he would’ve liked”.
Cocker takes over the stage with his signature moves as he struts from left to right, accompanied by streamers at the peak of their performance during ‘Disco 2020’. The audience don’t miss a beat or a word, singing with such joy at the return of their favourite band as confetti falls on the crowd during ‘Babies’. Pulp goes out with a bang with a three-song encore which ends with the renowned ‘Common People’, pausing only to introduce his full band before continuing the final chorus.
Pulp’s music remains relevant even 45 years after they first formed and resonates with individuals of all ages from all walks of life. This was demonstrated as clear as day this weekend, therefore proving that the decade-long wait for the band’s return was worth it and that we can end the weekend on an unprecedented high.