Theatrical display and rousing rhythms from PJ Harvey

Tuesday night saw a welcomed return of eclectic English singer songwriter PJ Harvey as she thrilled the Rockhal crowd.

With a plethora of awards to her name PJ Harvey has been the darling of the critics for many years now and with the release of her ninth studio album “The Hope Six Demolition Project” it looks like the music buying public have caught up, with this becoming her first UK No1 album. Never one to she away from a political stance or tackle some unfashionable narratives Harvey took on war torn and run down communities with visceral clarity on this record as she once more set herself away from the pack.

With a sense of theatre peppered throughout the performance Harvey paraded onto the stage with her nine-piece band consisting of big bass drums and plenty of brass as they ushered in the prison-gang blues of “Chain Of Keys”.


Playing almost all of the new album, the set was punctuated by double percussion and plenty of brass throughout with Harvey taking up the saxophone as her instrument of choice when not up front singing the likes of “The Community of Hope” and “Near The Memorials of Vietnam and Lincoln” which inhabited a unique place where folk storytelling met rock’n’roll, ska, blues and jazz. It’s this unique sensibility that has always kept Harvey out on her own evolving with every album.

The likes of “Let England Shake” and “The Ministry of Social Affairs” brought an energy and haunting depth whilst building the rhythm around the percussion, handclaps and brass. She even found space for the solemn intimacy of “When Under Ether” and “Dollar, Dollar” where you could hear a pin drop within the crowd as Harvey’s electrifying magnetism captivated all within the Rockhal.

But whilst Harvey has taken her fans through a journey of alternative gothic storytelling over recent albums, she delved into the back catalogue to remind us that her inner punk is never far away with “50ft Queenie” which still packs the same punch as it did on its release back in 1993 whilst “Down By The Water” and “To Bring You My Love” still encapsulate the crunching dark swagger that epitomized her sound of the mid 90s.

With nine albums worth of eclectic material to draw from it was always going to be difficult for Harvey to please all in the crowd and whilst there could’ve been a few more in the set from some earlier albums, they way in which the new album was handled live has opened it up in a new light. I suppose all we can hope is that Harvey doesn’t look to slow down her output anytime soon.

Rockhal – 18.10.16


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