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.
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.