PJ Harvey and John Parish – [Live]

Monday, 29 June 2009

PJ Harvey and John Parish took the stage in grand style with Harvey appearing barefoot in a flowing black gown and the band wearing dark suits and hats. The stage was set with the drums and keyboards to the right and left respectively leaving a large open area in the center for Harvey to dance around during the performance. This tour is not only in support of their album A Woman A Man Walked By but also drew heavily from the Dance Hall At Louse Point collaboration, which was released twelve years earlier.

They opened the show with "Black Hearted Love" which is also the lead track to the new album. This song was written five years before the others but wasn't recorded until recently. The other nine songs that fill out the album are much more experimental in nature. The set list ranged from the loud and abrasive "Pig Will Not" with Harvey screaming with the manic intensity of a child's temper tantrum to the quiet melancholy of "Civil War Correspondent."

PJ Harvey has historically written from the perspective of different characters. The pervasive tone of her albums with Parish is that of insanity and aggression. When she wasn't creating larger than life personas that filled the hall, she was floating about almost as if she were in a trance. In the quieter moments, she even drew upon the Grandmother voice that pervaded White Chalk.

John Parish is a very engaging guitarist who isn't afraid to experiment. His playing is more about melody and sound than traditional guitar solos. This simple approach embellished with brief forays into slide guitar was powerful and quite entertaining. He also played banjo and ukulele at different times during the night adding variety to the songs. He and Giovanni Ferrario both donned Fender Jazzmasters for most of the evening and did a great job of bringing the parts on the album to the next level. Drummer Jean Marc Butty and bassist/keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman were both excellent as well. Jean Marc in particular was an incredibly solid drummer whose flair and intensity brought a lot of energy to the show.

Harvey only addressed the audience a few times during the evening and when she did she had an air of quiet humility. This was often strange after the intensity of the previous song. While I would not say that the material is the best of her career, their performance was excellent and kept the audiences rapt attention for the whole hour and a half set.


A Woman a Man Walked By is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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