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Live – PJ Harvey, Perth WA, 13 January 2012

| 3 October 2012 | Reply

Perth Concert Hall
By Piney

Black Friday; unlucky for some but not so much for Perth because this was the night that English songbird; Ms Polly Jean Harvey chose to kick off her much anticipated, Mercury Prize winning Let England Shake tour. Musically speaking, Polly Jean doesn’t like to repeat herself and Let England Shake, her eighth studio album provides another fresh and unique dose of that Harvey magic. For this album the rock goddess has contemplated war and conflict, the people who do the fighting and the ones who are left behind. The music accompanying the songs from the album is light, much of which is sung in the high falsetto that characterised her earlier work and accompanied by the autoharp, which have the effect of disguising the serious nature of the lyrics. So much so, that if you weren’t paying close attention, you might miss the dark nature altogether. It was this misleading, light frivolity in which PJ chose to open the show: singing the first song and title track from the album; Let England Shake, in the intimate surrounds of the Perth Concert Hall. A venue that is certainly worthy of her immense talent.

Polly’s die-hard fans will have seen the many transformations the lady has made in her personal style over the twenty-year span of her stellar career in particular; the way she adopts a new look each time she releases an album. On Friday the thirteenth Polly Jean was covered from head to toe in black; long sleeves, cinched tight by a black leather corset and high-heeled black leather boots that peeked out from under a full skirt as she performed. One would imagine the poor thing was quite hot under all those clothes and stage lights and still, she wore her hair long and loose, held back by a black feathered headdress. Add this to a bare, black stage with minimal lighting and the lady almost blended in. The effect was intense and haunting.

In accordance with the brooding, melancholy nature of the music, PJ was all business and not much chit-chat in between songs. But this only served to add to the intensity of her performance.

The enthusiastic audience affectionately and sporadically heckled PJ; with one gentleman loudly professing his undying love for the songbird early on in the piece. Unfortunately for him, this was not at all encouraged or acknowledged by the singer and after a while the song suggestions and calls of adoration stopped being cute and became annoying, if not rude and inconsiderate, because in the end they only served to take the focus away from the music. And when an audience is lucky enough to have one of the world’s most successful female rockers singing for their enjoyment, they should just shut the hell up and pay attention.

In between stints on the autoharp that she cradled to her body and played in a trance-like state, PJ brought out those enormous guitars she is famed for. There is something strangely erotic about a lady playing the guitar. Put it down to the juxtaposition of the feminine body; soft and sweet-smelling, a fleshy female form wielding a powerful guitar; heavy and angular and undeniably phallic. It is especially arousing when she rocks the bejesus out of it. PJ Harvey is a tiny thing small, delicate and doll-like, but her if her musical ability is to be likened to the size of her guitar, then she could definitely handle a bigger axe. Certainly much, much bigger than some of the blokes out there who like to play with their penises, err guitars, onstage. PJ is almost dwarfed by her guitar, but she has total control over that bad boy and the way she wields that mf only makes her performance all the more erotic. That night in the concert hall, Polly Jean may have been covered head to toe, but somehow she made it look hot. When it comes to the phallic, pissing contest of rock n roll, PJ can hold her own with the big boys.

Including the encore Polly Jean managed to belt out just under twenty tracks during her show, most of which came from her latest album. And given the way she throws her whole self into performing, it would seem that a ninety minute show would be quite draining. During the set, she managed to play only a handful of songs from her earlier work, one being a very splendid rendition of Down by the Water, during which she lost the serious, haunted stance and for a second or two, almost lost herself and broke into the sexy, irreverent swagger of the PJ of years gone by; the one who wears short skirts, high boots and moans like a possessed Banshee. That PJ appeared only for a moment, and it was wonderful.

The lady managed to score not one, but two standing ovations. One after her initial performance and another following a generous encore. Given her amazing talent and continued popularity, even after so many years, one wonders if she is even surprised to receive them anymore, or whether she has come to expect it. Either way, they were both well deserved.

Before leaving the stage PJ turned to introduce her band, giving the audience a glimpse of that famous nose; the best in the biz. She very humbly thanked the audience, and then she was gone. Disappearing in a swirl of skirts and black feathers.

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Category: Live Reviews

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