On the first day I saw her

It would be fitting for me to write a post about finally seeing PJ Harvey, since a while ago,  I wrote a post about the 3 bands that I would most like to see, and she was one of them. (I admit that, strictly speaking, PJ Harvey is a person, and not a band.  So is Tom Waits, another “band”  I’d like to see….but that is another post. Let’s get back on topic.) Well, PJ was in Melbourne earlier this month, and this time I managed (only just!) to get a ticket before they sold out.

It turned out to be an experience that I relished, although quite different to what I had pictured. Apparently Polly Jean is the kind of artist who gives a different kind of performance, depending on the album that she is touring. This show wasn’t like being at a rock gig, in fact it was like a theatrical performance – a solo performer doing an intense, one-person show. This was helped by the clearly deliberate choice of venue – an old theatre, in which the audience were seated.

The lighting was very theatrical – with warm golden lighting on the band, and cold white light on PJ Harvey, heightening the dramatic effect created by her long black Victorian-looking dress and her weird, horn-like headpiece. Between songs the light went down and hid her in the darkness, almost as if she needed a few seconds of privacy between each song, while the band were still lit. It was enthralling, and kind of awe-inspiring in the way that an intense solo performance should be.

I won’t spend much time describing it, since, as I’ve said before, I’m not a music critic or reviewer, just a fan. You can read better reviews than I could write on other sites, like here, for example. I’ll just mention that, although she said not one single word to her adoring audience the whole way through the show, this didn’t seem to cause the audience to lose any respect for her – there were still shrieks of  “We love you PJ!” between songs.

To me it felt as though she was inhabiting a role that she needed to stay in to perform this particular concert and therefore she couldn’t come out of character and speak to the audience. When she did finally acknowledge the audience at the end, with a modest sounding “Thank you for listening” , that sole crumb of conversation was apparently all that her adoring fans (myself included) needed. We were appeased.

The song list consisted almost solely of her new material, from Let England Shake, but towards the end, and in the encore, she threw in a few older songs. Judging by the response of the audience, Angelene was the highlight of these older songs for most people, but for me, it was The Piano.

The only criticism I could make was that it started right on time, at the time advertised on the ticket! This meant that some people who were slack and assumed that a rock gig never starts on time, and the time on the ticket is usually a loose guide to when the support act will come on, missed 2-3 songs. My other criticism could have been that it finished all too soon after that, however, she had been singing for about an hour and a half, so you could hardly expect a solo performer to go on for any longer, particularly when she wasn’t giving her vocal chords any break from singing by stopping to chat in between. And of course, because of the lack of chit chat, she probably fitted twice the amount of songs into 90 minutes than most performers do. So I guess all in all, she gave us as much as anyone could have asked of her.

Would I go see her again? You bet.

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1 Comment

  1. PJ is brilliant live, I’ve seen her a couple of times – but I should make the effort to see her every time she visits.

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