Stepping out just two days after winning the prestigious Mercury Music prize, PJ Harvey was greeted by a rather enthusiastic crowed in Manchester. If she was still giddy from the award, she managed not to show it, choosing instead to embody the sombre character befitting of her recent material.
Refraining from speaking throughout the entire first half she produced an atmospheric performance bathed in the illumination of only a single beam of light. This proved especially impressive during Uh Huh Her’s “Pocket Knife” where her movement between the darkness and light added a sinister edge to her seductive dancing. When she did speak, her thanks seemed genuine and heartfelt and possibly reflected the good cheer due to recent accomplishments.
Her backing band included long term collaborator John Parish (who always looks like the happiest person alive) and bad seed/composer Mick Harvey. Mick’s deep voice is perfect accompaniment for Polly’s and weaves the same magic live as it did on record. Parish was as reliable and wonderful as ever. He is often considered a muse to Polly, and it is almost telepathic how they exchange looks when performing together on stage. Rather oddly he appeared to have his own throne in Manchester, which he used for sitting between songs.
Let England Shake was played in its entirety, but there were also plenty of older songs scattered througout the 90 minute set. Some of the more mainstream fans may have felt a twinge of disappointment at the lack of Stories From The Sea material, but this left room for some great versions of songs from the superior “Bring Me Your Love”. A particular highlight of the older material, along with the previously mentioned Pocket Knife, was a stunning version of Angeline from underrated (and personal favourite) album “Is This Desire”.
A spectacular gig then, and proof that Harvey is as creative and wonderful 9* albums into her career as she has ever been.
*Not counting the two essential calibrations with John Parish, and the (also essential) compilations “4 Track Demos” and “Peel Sessions”.