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P J HARVEY @ MANCHESTER APOLLO 08/09/11 - REVIEW BY MEL

 
P J Harvey has been the name on the lips of the music industry in recent times as a woman of substance, a force to be reckoned, a unique individual who despite her high profile still remains shrouded in mystery. Through each of her eight albums produced we have seen her grow in stature as an artist, an intellectual storyteller, laying her soul bare with her words of passion, torment and wisdom. Just days ago she was presented with the coveted Mercury Prize for the second time around, its no wonder PJ is really hot property at the moment and no more so than in Manchester tonight. It’s Harvey’s first UK date on the tour, a show we have eagerly been awaiting for months, and finally we are ready to be captivated by this most revered singer/songwriter/musician.
 

With no supporting act tonight its straight into action at 8.30pm - Polly is greeted with rapturous applause as she emerges from the side of the stage, dressed from head to toe in a black Victorian Gothic style outfit, a bodice of leather and twisted pieces of black fabric drape around her diminutive frame. It was all topped off elegantly with a strange but wonderful black feathered headdress, a poetic priestess. A single spotlight focuses on that majestic face, bold and yet tender at the same time, a powerful multi-instrumental talent highlighted by a mythical glow.

She cradles her Autoharp lovingly and strikes up the album sound track 'Let England Shake' and hence forth this bewitching woman unleashes all of her new album upon Manchester’s auditorium this evening – a long player which reflects on War and all its facets, recorded in a mere 5 weeks. Whilst other tracks she intertwined from earlier albums ‘To Bring My Love’ – ‘Uh Huh Her’ – ‘White Chalk’ and 'Is This Desire’.

Of course let’s not forget she also had the finest of musicians in their own right helping her along the way, in the shape of long time collaborators, Mick Harvey, and John Parrish, with Jean-Marc Butty on drums. All of whom were formed around what appeared to be a kind of saloon bar effect, in the back room of a smoky bar, whilst PJ stood as a solitary figure, positioned to the far left of the stage.

She continued to lead us into her dark, shadowy world and the thrill of her voice shimmering to a packed out Apollo. She held the audience in the palm of her hand, mostly standing perfectly still [when not playing an instrument], not speaking a single word, despite cat calls from a few in the crowd to "acknowledge your audience" or “we love you Polly”. This wasn't the time or place to speak, no words were necessary, but it was most unusual. After each song, Miss Polly drifts into the black recess to the rear stage, only to re-emerge and as the smoke formed around her she soulfully inhabited each and every song, taking us on a poetic journey weaving her tales of war and wonder.

As Polly and the band walked off the stage for the first time, they did the theatrical bow and stood a while, Polly was positively radiant, smiling and glowing. The only banter if you can call it that was when Polly introduced her band of merry men, and thanked everyone for coming. Returning for the encore with older tracks, ' The Sky Lit Up' and 'Angelene' finally closing the set with ‘Silence’ the perfect song to end the evening, with Polly’s beautiful voice ringing out. Overall it was an hour and a half of pure magic, which left us spellbound and entranced, certainly a show to remember for a very long time to come.

Setlist:

Let England Shake
The Words That Maketh Murder
All And Everyone
The Big Guns Called Me Back Again
Written On The Forehead   
In The Dark Places
The Devil
Dear Darkness
The Glorious Land
The Last Living Rose
England
Pocket Knife
Bitter Branches
On Battleship Hill
Down By The Water
C'mon Billy
Hanging In The Wire
The Colour Of The Earth

Encore:

The Sky Lit Up
Angelene
Silence

As we left the building, a few hung around the stage door, hoping for a glimpse, an autograph, or a photo, but meanwhile the very private and elusive West Country Girl, with the green, heavy lidded eyes had just quietly slipped from sight out of the building retaining that aura of mystery.

www.pjharvey.net

Review by Mel
Thanks to Sakura for the two photos of PJ Harvey www.rockphotographer.net
Top photo/group photo by Mel