Monday, February 18, 2008

Polly Jean Harvey

PJ Harvey @ QPAC, Brisbane Feb 17, 2008

I have always loved PJ Harvey!

Especially the strong young woman who tore into my musical conscience in 1992. I provided a brief history of this amazing woman here and after last night I am even more besotted with this gorgeous musical and sartorial chameleon.

Polly is currently touring her eight studio album, the bleak and raw White Chalk and last night it was Brisbane’s turn.

Aussie legend Mick Harvey, playing acoustic guitar and supported only by double bass, played an opening set containing a few of his own tracks plus covers of songs by The Triffids, Chris Bailey and even a few unreleased tracks from the headlining lady. Sadly there were no tracks from Mick’s two interesting albums of re-workings of Serge Gainsbourg tracks.

Mick (Boys Next Door, Birthday Party, Bad Seeds, Crime and the City Solution) is a long time collaborator with Polly Jean (despite the shared surname there is no relationship) and also produced her “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” album.

Polly entered to a rapturous reception, looking gorgeous (as always), this time in her virginal white Victorian wedding dress, gentle and ethereal. Yet there was something hidden beneath (the sexy stiletto heeled shoes which would occasionally emerge from beneath her dress), it was a pure yet slightly dangerous look to match her new piano-based album.

QPAC wasn’t quite sold out, but the venue was full of fans and we were immediately treated to classic Rock Queen PJH, roaring through “To Bring You My Love” on her Gibson Firebird guitar. Polly would play 5 different guitars throughout the night and visit tracks that spanned her career, including one of my favourite ever tracks, “Rid Of Me” (has it really been 15 years Polly?).

But for much of the set it was the gentler and darker White Chalk album which Polly wanted to play for us and for these tracks she bounced across the stage between piano, zither, harmonica (the scaffolding of which keeps tearing out her hair) and acoustic guitar. It is amazing to think that this talented woman taught herself to play piano and during the night would also play a Moog Taurus bass synth, drum machine (and cymbal), and sing in her new, almost broken falsetto style which seems to have gained strength from the vocal sounds on the album. Polly was constantly moving around the stage, changing instruments and charming us all.

There was a wonderful rapport between artist and audience throughout the evening, with several brief conversations (not always heard or understood) and many of cries of devotion and lust with everyone on and off stage obviously having a fun time.

During the performance, Mick Harvey came out on several occasions to accompany Polly on piano, allowing her to fill out the sound on guitar, although the was not a requirement as PJ’s solo reinterpretations of her own tracks had a power of their own. And were closer to their true, original form - as Polly told us in one of her many little chats with the audience.

The show was over far too soon. Polly, please come back again, soon.

PJ Harvey - Rid Of Me

PJ Harvey - When Under Ether

Do you want to hear more of PJ Harvey's tunes? Not sure which albums to buy? Check out these links:-


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