By some miracle, you'd be aware

Or "Yes, I am big fan geek for PJ Harvey"

Dear friends,

The Monkey took me to see PJ Harvey at the Beacon last night. Part of me was having geek meltdown and part of me kept sneaking peeks at J, looking to see if he was enjoying it. It was his first time seeing her. Yes, he liked it very much.

Polly Jean Harvey came on stage, all by her lonesome, looking like a Victorian kewpie doll. Her white puffed sleeved dress scrawled in grand black script; her lyrics and her handwriting she explained later. She picked up her guitar and stood in the middle of a cluttered stage set up. Piano strung in lights on one side, amps in the back, various instruments strewn about. It was almost as if we were a family about to witness an impromptu living room recital by the baby of the family, an intense and terrifyingly talented little girl.

She slinked into the opening lines of To Bring You My Love and man oh man, THAT VOICE. I felt like it was lipsynch 'cause it sounded too perfect, too much like the record. It took a second for my ears to get used to the sound of it. I love her.


I know I'm biased, but really, has anyone done more for Blues music lately than PJ Harvey? I'm not talking wack-ass Eric Clapton retreads, I'm talking updating the sound of lamentation so that it sounds powerful and alive. She is so thrillingly in the moment of her songs that it can be a little off-putting to people not used to such passion in their music. Or if they are, it's a different sort of passion, the flowery kind that's more about me! me! me! than trying to tell a story. She makes you feel her belief. When she sang "You know he's gonna be there..." and stretched the last vowels into a dry death rattle, it wasn't pretty, it was captivating.

Screw the 'fork, I think they missed the point. I love White Chalk. It's gorgeous. Yes, it's sad but in a break from her past work, it's the everyday sadness of loss not a fantasy tale of bad men and shamed ladies. As for difficult, it's no harder than any of her other records, since when has she made muzak? I love the sound of this year's Harvey on the album, feather light and high, high, high. She has always tried to do different things with her vocal sound over the years. It's not so much that Harvey refuses to deliver a sound that is her patently her "own" but rather that she doesn't want to be constrained by a vocal sound that never changes. It was startling to hear the White Chalk songs after the openers from To Bring You My Love, which was the deeeeep, alto voiced record; all sludge and darkness. White Chalk, not so much. The opening, coloratura soprano vocalizations of The Devil seemed even more unreal. How can that tiny little person contain so many different voices and have mastery of all of them? HOW?!?

I'm losing the plot aren't I? It was a great show. I loved hearing Snake, haven't seen her play that in ages. The amazing precision of the final four chords of skronk on Man Size was the bomb. I actually giggled involuntarily and I wasn't alone. Never much of a fan of Down By The Water but last night's autoharp-assisted version, less sing-songy, more fragile and sustained was a revelation. The audience sang all the repetitions along with her; "down by the water/my lovely daughter" etc. and they sang softly, cushioning the number with their hum.

My favorite of the night I think was Silence. I do like the recorded version but the bare bones live version had an authority that was deeply moving and cathartic. I don't know the story behind the song but it sounds to me like someone coming to terms with the loss of squandered time. In her delivery last night, every repetition of the ending word "Silence" got stronger until the number became a kind of hymn.

Silence/PJ Harvey (mp3)

PJ Harvey at The Beacon Theater 10/10/2007 Set List

To Bring You My Love
Send His Love To Me
When Under Ether
The Devil
White Chalk
Nina (in Ecstacy)
Electric Light
My Beautiful Leah*
Big Exit
Down By The Water
Grow Grow Grow
The Mountain


Rid Of Me
The Piano
The Desperate Kingdom of Love


M to da P was a couple rows behind me, check out his thoughts on the show at Fluxblog.

Additional eyes and ears...

Music Snobbery

Love, D


* The drum looped backed tune that the Monkey was referring to when he told me that he "wasn't feeling the hip hop so much." HA HA HA. Love it.

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