PJ Harvey - Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Sun 4 Sep 2011
Assured and powerful set from artist in command of her own medium
Forty-eight hours after this concert finished, PJ Harvey would have her second Mercury Prize safely in hand. While the award was an open field this year in terms of the albums submitted, the assurance and power in Harvey’s set here spoke of an artist apart from the crowd and utterly in command of her own medium. As she emerged, striding across the stage in Bonham-Carterish all-black boots, dress-come-military jacket, leather corset and feather head-dress, a ripple ran through the audience which suggested the soon-fulfilled expectation of something special.
Even her own band gave her a respectful berth, the trio of Bad Seed Mick Harvey, John Parish and drummer Jean-Marc Butty huddling in a corner of the stage while Harvey waited alone opposite, clutching her autoharp and framed by a macabre wash of dim white light.
The show walked a tightrope between the comforting and the unsettling, from the hollowed-out blues of ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ to ‘Dear Darkness’ fragile lullaby quality and the krautrock rhythm of ‘The Glorious Land’. On ‘Pocket Knife’, singer and song came screeching from the darkness, dragging us towards her earlier, more primal folk-blues of ‘Down By the Water’ and ‘C’Mon Billy’. The set contained the whole of Let England Shake, although these songs didn’t so much stand out as blend in with a career-spanning selection of resonant quality.