At The Troxy, London
PJ Harvey Live

“The West asleep, let England shake”.

These, the first words the fuzzy audience heard from Polly Jean at the Troxy on Sunday night. Eager to abandon the cold cold winter for a promise of a warm hazy Sunday, and the few years of silence for conscience and dignity, the audience seemed up on its toes. The queen stepped in tall and dark, her head expanded by two long black arched feathers, horns, wings were they, tales they told of arcane beauty.

The already famous ‘The words that maketh murder’ bites my memory in a freeing shiver like when I hear a microphone sigh ‘not in our name’ again, remembering Kofi Annan’s defeated glance on the papers of the morning of an injustice, some truths take their time in deed.

And then Polly calls us, summons us to the height of our concentration and love, with a voice as soaring as in 'White Chalk', but stronger, as desperate as ‘There Will Never Be A Better Time’ of ‘The Desert Sessions’, but wiser, and she takes us all and everyone into the wasteland of our dreams, to tell their sadness, and try to warm them in the sun. So we follow her, in these places of war and silence, where ‘we got up early, washed our faces, walked the fields, and put up crosses. Passed through the damned mountains, went hellwards, and some of us returned, and some of us did not’, dark places.

Some say we loose it when pain becomes untenable. Polly Jean reminds us of her most haunted album 'White Chalk' with her song ‘The Devil’ and takes it to the river of her youth, and of ‘Is This Desire’. How it washes away this pain she has sung before. Polly has crossed another desert, she is leading us to battle. The devil, with who she has learnt to live, does not control her soul, she is not alone, and maybe darkness will take care of us now? Maybe it will pay us now, with all the things it took from us.

And into battle we go, ‘The Sky Lights Up’ and we rock and sway to a series of chants, grunts and groans, old and new, so powerful they make us laugh. The balance with her musicians is astonishing. Old colleagues John Parish and Mick Harvey perform perfectly with Jean-Marc Butty on drums, precise, almost elusive in the name of the songs. The four musicians seem to enjoy each song with a passion, music reigns and she is well accompanied. In a recent interview, PJ speaks of the ‘simplicity, the carrying of the news…. the sense of community of ancient songs’, wanting to find and carry history into her voice and art, she researched singing traditions of the four corners of the earth. Her love song to a neglected land, be it Iraq, Kurdistan, and England, resounds in our ears very deep.

And after an hour of battle in beauty, and an amazing ‘Big Exit’, it is a soothing ‘The Colour Of The Earth’ that blows like a breeze on our crazy heads. Is this it? Are we off to bed? No. The quartet comes back, and gives us ‘Meet Ze Monsta’ and ‘Angelene’ for all our teen spirits, and then finally, ‘Silence’.

Words by Ninka Molot


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