Music review: PJ Harvey, Barrowland, Glasgow
PJ Harvey, Barrowland, Glasgow ****
We thought we’d lost her to poetry but PJ Harvey returned in all her surprising idiosyncrasy earlier this year with a new album, spinning evocative sound worlds again. Like many of her albums, I Inside The Old Year Dying is a complete work and she played it in its entirety as the first half of this concert, delivered with simple theatricality – musicians moving from station to station, Harvey sometimes seated, sometimes standing, tracked by a lone spotlight or arms outstretched in willowy invocation, making atmospheric use of her eerie upper range, in marked contrast to her commanding chest voice.
The cumulative result was a pagan folk prog suite, replete with archaic lingo from her native Dorset rubbing up against references to Elvis and Pepsi, with haunting male voice harmony from her regular bandmates, peppered with stormy violin from James Johnston and martial drums from Jean-Marc Butty.
Those harmonies were in shanty-like effect, supplemented by resonant rhythm guitars, tom and tambourine on The Colour of the Earth, a bridge to the second half of the show – a greatest hits, as it were. The birdsong samples of the first half were replaced with the bugle call of The Glorious Land, Harvey’s autoharp at the ready for The Words That Maketh Murder, Send His Love To Me reborn on acoustic guitar and violin.
Her choices ranged from the obscure – a solo acoustic The Desperate Kingdom Of Love – to some of the best loved songs from her back catalogue, unearthed for what felt like the first time in years. Man-Size rocked and rumbled, with dissonant strokes of violin, while Dress, her attention-grabbing debut single from 1991, remained an audacious examination of gender roles.
Next, she played both murder balladeer and spooky siren on the visceral bluesy Down by the Water and To Bring You My Love before encoring intimately with a comedown campfire cover of Bob Dylan's Dark Eyes.