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PJ Harvey - Brixton Brixton Academy15/07/04 - Live Review

PJ Harvey @ Brixton 15/07/04

PJ Harvey has always had a reputation for being a provocative and sultry live act, and tonight, dressed all in red complete with red stiletto boots, she lives up to her reputation. However, that’s not the whole of her performance as she shows her more vulnerable side and it feels like she’s taking you into her confidence. And the crowd love it, in a packed out Brixton – yet it feels so intimate; Harvey is definitely an artist complemented by live shows. There isn’t much pretension from her or her music which is evident from the sparse stage layout and how much of herself she pours into each song.

The first song that really grabs my attention is ‘Who The F**k’, a sharp song with angular guitars and beats and Harvey almost literally throws herself into it. On record, the song isn’t standout but live, the bass, drums and Harvey’s voice together are spellbinding. Throughout

PJ Harvey - Brixton Brixton Academy15/07/04 - Live Review

the evening, it becomes clear that her voice is very much an instrument and she uses it to full effect; it’s so powerful, despite how tiny she is.

The songs sound fresh and vital, as she totally gets into it, acting out all the emotions. The song is bluesy and sultry, and, with her diva-like voice rising and falling in free flow, it’s mesmerising. She runs, then sort of totters about before kneeling at the edge of the stage head down.

From time to time, she played guitar herself and whilst it did sound sexy, one song also sounded sweet – a sound full of longing and despair. She looked like a little girl lost and it was genuinely moving; it was almost heart rending, as you felt pulled into it like an intimate secret was being revealed. Not for long though, the provocative blues return with an angular number that proves that Harvey can stalk the stage with the appearance of a pro – she really knows how to work a stage. She can also work a crowd as well and they cheer at the provocative movements.

Halfway through the next song, I realise that there is no pretension at all at a PJ Harvey gig; she puts so much emotion into it, it’s now that it feels like you’re being taken into her confidence. The song is eerie but so gorgeous at the time it almost makes me cry. It doesn’t seem to matter that there isn’t much between-song banter (Harvey actually seems a bit shy tonight).

A couple of songs after ‘Good Fortune’, we’re treated to a solo performance from Harvey – just Polly and her guitar – and you can hear a pin drop, there’s not a sound from the audience as she builds and drops away. It’s truly electrifying. It’s the lull before the storm, the next song is spiky and punky as she sits by the drum kit and shakes her head wildly. That woman really knows how to stalk a stage though.

It’s by the encore that things get a bit on the repetitive side, and I start getting the feeling I’ve seen it all before. After the first song of the encore, which is a song of two halves, the whole sultry and provocative mood is back, as one of the songs, off of the new record, is ‘The Letter’. After that, she gives a little wave and then they’re gone. There’s a long wait and anticipation grows and grows in the air, before Harvey and the other guitarist come out and give us the highlight of the night: an acoustic cover of ‘Where’s Your Mama Gone?’. So beautiful, it was heartbreaking. It was something of a mixed set, but it was excellent entertainment for all that.


Natasha Perry