PJ Harvey made her triumphant return to the stage after a 6 year long hiatus. Harvey, aware of her grandeur, is not accompanied by a support act, in fact she will not be for the entirety of this tour. As the crowd piled into the sold out show, there was a tangible buzz in the air, we were all aware we were about to witness greatness, an iconic performer, in no way bound by the shackles of time and trend.
Our eyes were glued to the stage, adorned with a writing desk, church pews and other assorted eclectic items, as we were welcomed into the dreamscape of I inside the old year of dying with the toll of school bells. Harvey sauntered on stage, a figure in white, clouded in shadow, before she stepped into the spotlight and began to perform her 2023 album in its entirety.
Harvey utilizes the entirety of the stage, twirling through tracks embodying ethereal ease and grace with opening track Prayer at the gate, and demanding our attention as she sits, stoically, at her writing desk as she performs Lwonesome Tonight, captivating us as she reaches to the audience, arms stretched to the masses, asking us “Are you Elvis? Are you God?”. I inside the old year of dying is an album that echos a song long forgotten, and seems steeped in folklore of a Dorset now gone. This notion is reiterated in Harvey’s performance.
As the album draws to a close with A noiseless noise, the urgency of the track segues perfectly into the second half of the set, Harvey erupts into her 1993 number Man-size and the crowd is engulfed by the sound of familiarity. The second portion of the set seems intentional, bouncing between her massive back catalog, careful to exclude tracks from 2000’s Stories from the city, stories from the sea, but intentional in its inclusion of tracks from the critically acclaimed 1995 album To bring you my love. Tracks such as Send his love to me and Dress came like fresh air to the set, breaking the silence and captivation of the first half. However, it is in the track To Bring You My Love, where Harvey embodied her strong alto cadence, that brought us to our knees.
PJ Harvey is a timeless performer, whose absence from the world of performing is sorely felt whenever the notion of a hiatus takes her, but it is an experience worth the wait, and truly to be appreciated.