Thursday, 3 November 2011

PJ Harvey, Royal Albert Hall, October 30th 2011

After a few days to soak it up and let it sink in, I have to say this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to. Out of all Peej’s albums, her current one (Let England Shake) ranks as high as her debut “Dry” (1992) and the beautifully polished “Stories from the city, stories from the sea” (2000).
Why was it one of the best gigs I’ve been to? Well, it was at the Royal Albert Hall, truly a magnificent venue for music. But also the quality of the delivery of all the songs played, the new album in it’s entirety plus more and a near two hour set.
The songs from the new album evoke war and the experience of war told through the eyes of combatants and civilians. Also it poignantly digs into the spirit of a pastoral England, an urban England. The beauty and hardships, the wonder and sadness.  Warts and all. It’s achingly beautiful, uplifting and melancholic. Lyrically it’s just breathtaking.


The Last Living Rose
Goddamn Europeans!
Take me back to beautiful England
And the grey damp filthiness of ages
And battered books
And fog rolling down behind the mountains
On the graveyards and dead sea-captains.
Let me walk through the stinking alleys
To the music of drunken beatings
Past the Thames river glistening
Like gold, hastily sold
For nothing
Let me watch night fall on the river
The moon rise up and turn to silver
The sky move
The ocean shimmer
The hedge shake
The last living rose, quiver.


And this song, the suffering and loneliness of the dying soldier


Hanging in the Wire.
Walker sees the mist rise
Over no man's land
He sees in front of him
A smashed up waste ground
There are no fields or trees
No blades of grass
Just unhurried ghosts are there
Hanging in the wire
Walker's in the wire
Limbs point upwards
There are no birds singing
The white cliffs of Dover
There are no trees to sing from
Walker cannot hear the wind
Far off symphony
To hear the guns beginning
Walker's in the mist
Rising over no man's land
In the battered waste ground
Hear the guns firing
Incredibly, there is a video for every single song on the album. Each one is compelling. All made by a filmmaker called Seamus Murphy. Here is the vid for Hanging in the Wire.
It makes me think of Paul Nash’s sensitive and harrowing World War 1 painting “We are making a new world” (Imperial War Museum). The tender and fragile tendrils of the suns rays tentatively touching the scene of devastation.

As for the gig, Polly Harvey was dressed in a black long dress, adorned with a crow feather headdress.
Here she is pictured with Mick Harvey (no relation) strumming away at her auto-harp.

It was interesting that the three lads in the band and her played some distance apart.


Ghostly Polly plays Autoharp

With guitar

Managed to get all band members in one shot! (Harvey, Harvey, Parrish, Butty, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb) – and if you understood that joke, it makes you old like me… shhhh…

Even the massive Royal Albert Hall organ got tooted.

Thankyou and goodnight!

And the night was topped off by John from work giving me a lift to Turnpike Lane, so I didn’t have to queue up with all the (other) morlocks at South Kensington station. Although he does need to sort his satnav, kept trying to direct him to the nearest chiropracter / police station for some reason!

1 comment:

yasminselenabutt said...

I'm going to be honest and say that I thought Metronomy should have won the Mercury award this year. That album is so fresh & tight. I absolutely love it! That and the Bombay Bicycle Club are my faves of the year so far.

I loved PJ's previous Mercury winner v.v.v.much but I found her latest England offering a bit clinical sounding, I couldn't warm to it as much, though lyrically it is brilliant. I was a bit gutted to be honest!

Playing it on my MP3 player yesterday as I traveled through London though, made me concede it is growing on me ; )

Would still love to see her live. Wish I could have seen her live 10 years ago when she was touring with Stories, that would have made me a very, very happy lass!!

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