I no longer write music reviews these days, but when I saw PJ Harvey live for the first time back in September 2001, I did produce an article for a French music website. I still have it, and reading it recently just before the gig at the Brixton Academy made me smile - it was not nostalgia though, as 2001 was a terrible year on a personal level apart from all the live music!
Almost exactly 15 years later, here I was again at the Brixton Academy for a PJ Harvey gig...
And it was fabulous, in a theatrical, austere, almost reverential kind of way... I was so thrilled to be there that I had goosebumps during the whole gig!
I have been following Harvey's career since the mid 1990s, and over all that time, she has never lost any of her uniqueness.
I have to admit though that I do not like her latest "protest songstress" direction very much. The concept and processes behind Let England Shake and The Hope Six Demolition Project - the travelling, sketching, poetry-writing are interesting, but the songs themselves leave me strangely cold. I find the music not as compelling and the subject matter does not suit Harvey's universe, somehow, or maybe the idea I have of her universe. But she has been lauded for her latest two albums and she deserves the praise and recognition.
I personally am a firm fan of her most haunting, eerie (should I say more occult?) output, from To Bring You My Love to White Chalk (it was a real treat to hear two songs from that gorgeous album - The Devil and To Talk To You, somehow never mentioned in the live reviews I have read) - a darker, more poetic and intimate, less tangible world.
I have all those albums next to my desk and I listen to them on a weekly basis.
Five years ago, I fell head over heels in love with PJ Harvey's birth county of Dorset and it suddenly all made sense... I understood the essence of her work. My third novel and work-in-progress, The Right Place, is inspired by the lyrics of PJ Harvey's song The Wind (from the Is This Desire? album) and set around the location which inspired her to write the song in the first place, St Catherine's chapel in Abbotsbury. And I am now about to move to Dorset myself. It is my turn to get inspired by the bewitching beauty of the county's ancestral landscape - but I hope PJ Harvey herself will once again turn to this familiar and yet so mysterious environment to find inspiration. Imagine the poems and illustrations this could produce...
Introducing the band and playing To Bring You My Love from SECC Glasgow, June 2016.
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