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PJ Harvey At Manchester Apollo Review

Nadia Jaynes on a stunning performance from the Mercury Prize winner

Written by . Published on September 9th 2011.


PJ Harvey At Manchester Apollo Review

THIS week saw PJ Harvey win the Mercury Music Prize for her latest album Let England Shake. In doing so she became the first artist to win the coveted award twice.  The first time being over a decade ago for Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

Her first Mercury prize was awarded on the night of the September 11 atrocities, and Let England Shake, (although almost three years in the making) goes some way to addressing Harvey’s views on the War on Terror and Britain's role in modern warfare.

As an album it’s lyrically challenging, poetic and politically provocative, and arguably Harvey’s most important and influential work to date. 

Throughout the whole set PJ Harvey speaks not a word, choosing instead to quietly deliver one faultless track followed by another to the crowd.

On Thursday PJ Harvey played the O2 Apollo in Manchester - it was a packed house for the gig.  There was no support act and no introduction to the set. It appeared to be a minimalist approach in every aspect of the performance.

As the lights went down and Harvey clutched her autoharp to her chest and in her inimitable way launched and lurched from one evocative track to the next. 

‘Let England Shake’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ were every bit as memorable as classics such as ‘Dear Darkness’ and ‘The Pocket Knife’. Stand out tracks from the new album ‘The Last Living Rose’ and ‘The Big Guns Called Me Back’ were even more affecting when performed live.

On stage PJ Harvey was a compelling presence: a raven haired, pale skinned, most unconventional, and yet - astounding beauty.

Her entire performance whilst always understated, was both theatrical and dramatic, her tiny frame cloaked in a grey full length gown and leather bodice complete with buckles and ties, her hair adorned with a feather headpiece that was both lovely and somewhat disturbing at once.

Her style appeared to be ‘Elegant Victorian Asylum Escapee’ and she wore it well. Throughout the whole set PJ Harvey spoke not a word, choosing instead to quietly deliver one faultless track after another.

PJ Harvey Wins Prestigious Mercury PrizePJ Harvey Wins Prestigious Mercury Prize

The gig was atmospheric, the lighting stark and minimal, with no effects aside from the odd blast of smoke. On the rare occasion she ‘danced’ every movement of her sinewy frame was careful and considered. She cast shadows against the backdrop that at times gave her the silhouette of something otherworldly.

After no less than eighteen tracks, PJ Harvey finally (all be it timidly) addressed the audience: “Thank you, thank you very much for coming here tonight.  Goodnight”

After much cajoling from the audience PJ Harvey rejoined the stage for the encore, she introduced the band before finishing the set with ‘The Piano’, ‘Angelene’ and ‘Silence’.

Then suddenly with a wisp of a feather she is gone.

SET LIST
  1. LET ENGLAND SHAKE
  2. THE WORDS THAT MAKETH MURDER
  3. ALL AND EVERYONE
  4. THE BIG GUNS CALLED ME BACK
  5. WRITTEN ON THE FOREHEAD
  6. IN THE DARK PLACES
  7. DEAR DARKNESS
  8. THE GLORIOUS LAND
  9. THE LAST LIVING ROSE
  10. ENGLAND
  11. THE POCKET KNIFE
  12. BITTER BRANCHES
  13. ON BATTLESHIP HILL
  14. DOWN BY THE WATER
  15. C’MON BILLY
  16. HANGING IN THE WIRE
  17. THE COLOUR OF THE EARTH

ENCORE

  1. THE PIANO
  2. ANGELENE
  3. SILENCE

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AnonymousSeptember 9th 2011.

sounds like fun

Simon SmithSeptember 9th 2011.

'un-inimitable'?

Do you mean imitable?

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