Friday, 24 April 2009

Gig Review: PJ Harvey And John Parish

When Helen Of Troy… last saw PJ Harvey, she was rocking the austere Victorian dowager persona as she promoted haunting masterpiece White Chalk. Two years on, as she took to the stage of the beautiful Birmingham Town Hall on a Wednesday night, Ms Harvey was more Lynchian than Victorian, her fragile frame prowling the stage, conveying equal parts maniacal menace and childlike innocence.

Backed by a brilliantly tight band of be-hatted blokes and flanked by long-time collaborator and co-creator of new album A Man A Woman Walked By, John Parish, Polly Jean seemed at ease from the off.

This ease was evident as Peej and Pals broke countless rock conventions by starting the show with a blistering rendition of current single Black Hearted Love. By the time they’d finished second song Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen (a deliciously intense version replete with pounding primal hand-claps) the crowd had been hypnotised.

From thereon-in, the enchanted audience was treated to a selection of tracks from Harvey and Parish’s two collaborative albums, 1996s Dance Hall At Louse Point and the aforementioned A Man A Woman Walked By – the title track of which is a real highlight, as PJ howled with delightful vitriol ‘now it's my turn to laugh! I'll stick it up your fuckin' ass’.

The contrast between this Banshee-like brilliance and the haunting delicacy of ukulele-backed heartbreaker Soldier sums up the essence of this almost perfect gig. PJ Harvey’s seemingly effortless ability to inhabit numerous characters yet still stay 100% Peej makes her a mesmerising prospect be it live, on record or in person.


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