PJ Harvey shines with reflective style and rural grace as the iconic alternative folk-angel she has evolved to encompass.
After having a quick peak at PJ Harvey’s previous setlists in Dublin, I had an inkling of the basic set-up in the first of her two sold out premiers at Glasgow Barrowlands. Although I was far from prepared for the spectacle, the performance and reminder of such beauty that was to take place.
Now on her 10th solo record, PJ’s first ‘part’ tonight focused heavily on songs from the haunting and infective ‘I Inside the Old Year Dying’. In the grasp of someone else, ‘Prayer at the gate’, ‘Autumn Term’ and ‘The Nether Edge’ may have brought sombre tones to the start of a show like this. But Harvey showed obvious love to these melodies, proceeding to dance around the stage, draped in ‘Holy-white’, arms flailing in the air. Much of this show was a true celebration at another collection of mastery, drive, and artistic progress.
At times, in amongst everything, there’s a darker, slightly witchy elements that enter the atmosphere. And it’s made even more fascinating (maybe fuelled) by Harvey’s prancing, cheek-to-cheek grinning and Kate Bush howls. Combined with the folky-rural nature of the tunes, this manages to give me serious Wicker Man / A Field In England vibes – it’s exhilarating to witness.
Harvey leaves the stage midway, with band members John Parish, Jean-Marc Butty, Giovanni Ferrario and James Johnston taking the momentary spotlight with ‘The Colour Of Earth’. Upon return, she spends the rest of the evening paying homage to a very different time in her career, but with obvious influence as to where she is now on her path. The upbeat yet chilling ‘The Glorious Land’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ both continue the first half’s visions – that of fearfully walking alone down dark country lanes with God-knows what lurking in the dusk.
Soon came a solo rendition of ‘The Desperate Kingdom of Love’, as gloomy and tear-jerking live as it is on the vastly underrated ‘Uh Huh Her’ album. As I hide signs of tears and catch breath, Harvey bursts into two very famous tracks that recall the ‘grungy’ start to her vast career. All limbs around seem to be possessed as the scratchy power chords, catchy choruses of ‘Dress’ and ‘Man-Size’ ring out, almost foreign to anything that came previously tonight.
The ‘rockier’ moments of the set don’t last long and first sign off comes in the form of the eerily seductive, sexy yet sinister ‘To Bring You My Love’. “I’ve lain with the devil, cursed God above, forsaken Heaven, to bring you my love”, Harvey laments, almost scorns, over one of many of her most simple yet iconic guitar riffs and gig standout.
A stripped down, more folky version of the always-startling ‘C’mon Billy’ came in the first of two songs during a brief encore. And just as Harvey began to gain more physical momentum, pleading for “my little Billy”, the night was brought to a fittingly crepuscular halt with the unquestionably calming yet morose ‘White Chalk’. Into the night I wandered until next time, and finding which form the ever-mysterious, ageless and mesmeric PJ Harvey takes next.
Words: Henry Jackson