Live at the Starworks Warehouse
I'll start with a confession! After adoring the rawness of her first two albums (Dry- 1992 and Rid of Me - 1993), both filled with manic and frank tales, fearless vocals and chugging guitars, I Iost interest in PJ Harvey.
I was only drawn back in by the haunting meditations on war of Let England Shake (2011). Startling and profound, was this the same person who once screamed 'Robert De Nero, sit on my face...' ? Oddly it is...
Let England Shake and this year's magnificent, but underrated 'Hope Six Demolition Project' make up the bulk of tonight's show. The reportage style of these recent songs may seem a world away from the sexual complexities of Rid of Me, but they come from the same uncompromising place.
Tonight the musicians arrive like a marching band, with reverberating drums and blasts of saxophone to deliver the sonorous 'Chain of Keys'. Polly takes centre stage, dressed in an unnervingly crowlike feathery costume, from this moment, her beguiling presence defines this mesmerising show.
It’s a dramatic ‘performance’, each song feels like separate a work of art. The carnage of ‘The Words that Maketh Murder' ('Soldiers fall like lumps of meat), and tragedy of missing Kosovan children in The Wheel (‘I heard it was 28,000') are harrowingly brought to life.
Of the older songs, 50 Foot Queenie, is ferocious and deranged whilst the piano and vocal only performance of 'When Under Ether' , a would-be mother's account losing an unborn child, is breathtakingly sad.
Then there's the throbbing blues of 'To Bring You My Love' - It's her most soaring vocal, it's dark and devotional words fill the room. I swear that the couple next to me were singing it to one another as they were wrapped in each other’s arms. The main set ends with 'River Anacostia' the slow drumming, the monastic choir and Polly's evocative cries bring the show to a hypnotic close.
After this, the encores (Near the Memorials of Vietnam and Lincoln and The Last Living Rose) seem a little unnecessary. But this is a minor grumble, Tonight, I’ve re-acquainted myself with the beautiful, theatrical and frequently disturbing world of PJ Harvey, I swear that I’ll never desert her again.
Our text editor won't let me embed amazing Getty images from the PJ Harvey tour (that'll get added to the to do list...)
PJ Harvey performed live at Wolverhampton's Starlight Warehouse - a vibrant new music venue established in the former city center Star Motors Engineering Factory, www.starworkswarehouse.co.uk. Cool! We love to see vintage buildings preserved and reused in this way.
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.