Encased in a Victorian style, full length white dress complete with puff sleeves, high neck and crayon black scrawls, hair all crazy curls and mad bag lady styling, PJ Harvey revealed an endearingly warm and ditzy personality behind her astonishing set list at this very special show at the Royal Festival Hall last night.
Chatting away to the audience between songs in her tiny, warm, West Country voice and sniffing into the microphone she flipped effortlessly into artist mode to deliver the full range of her repertoire; the guttural blues of To Bring You My Love, the wails of Man-Size, the beautifully spare and haunting vocal of new single, Ether.
Not only did she accompany herself on guitar or with the fairy light festooned piano, she strapped herself up with mouth organ, played harp, poked drum machines and even used a metronome as percussion. As well as a selection from her new album, White Chalk, she selected hugely appreciated favourites such as Big Exit, Down By The Water, Rid of Me and Legs and mixed in lesser known tracks like The Desperate Kingdom of Love, Shame and Water.
Not even a contrary, analogue drum machine could thwart her performance. It was simply prodded and discarded with the gem that it didn't always work when you turned it on, "a bit like a lot of human beings really."
This one woman show was formidable and brilliant. Any grumbles about the ticket prices compared to length of time on stage (1.5 hours, no support) dissipated in the presence of Polly Jean who - as well as seeming to really enjoy herself - is quite simply a one-off; an incredible songwriter, singer and artist and all round goddess who, with her 8th studio album in the bag, continues to push the boundaries of her art.
White Chalk is on sale now.
Image courtesy of Schrollom's Flickrstream.