Last night, I caught the forever amazing PJ Harvey with her longtime collaborator, John Parish. They were at the Fillmore Irving Plaza in New York promoting their second album together, A Woman A Man Walked By. I was fortunate enough to secure a place on the rail up front with little effort (as opposed to the previous night's Morrissey adventure). Having heard the duo's initial album, Dance Hall at Louse Point, which was an avant-garde bluesy mix, I had no predictions as to what the evening would be like. I wondered if this small venue experience would be anything like the time I was fortunate enough to catch Polly in 2004 at the itsy bitsy Knitting Factory, where she absolutely blew my fuckin' mind.
The dynamic duo and their band came onto the stage promptly at 9:15 and played for about 75 minutes. First most, I was struck by the contrast between the Woman and the Man. The petite Ms. Harvey stood barefoot at center stage with her porcelain skin enhanced by her simple flowing black dress and red lipstick, while Parish towered over her dressed in a jacket and fedora, looking almost impassive. She was the more conversational of the two, though I would hardly call it that. The focus here was the music, which drew from a mix of selections of both albums.
Like the two before us, the music was a study in contrasts. They opened up with the excellent "Black Hearted Love," perhaps the most radio-friendly of their songs. From there, the songs differed extensively, allowing us to savor the schizophrenic nature of PJ Harvey's performance -- at one moment, she is the delicate, demure woman with the soaring angelic voice, at other times, punk vixen, howling with a sense of urgency. God, I love her.
The music itself was great -- I was only familiar with some of the Dance Hall songs and "Black Hearted Love" -- other than that, everything was new to me. Most of the songs did not contain your usual song structure but rather, seemed narrative in nature, reflecting different moods. It'll be a great listen on a blustery day. I look forward to purchasing this album when it comes out next week.
Here's a quieter cut from their new album entitled "The Soldier":
The opener was a friend of theirs -- Howe Gelb, an old-timer from Tuscon, AZ, who's been around the block and back. He entertained us for about 1/2 hour with a mix of nonsensical storytelling and guitar strumming, talk-singing kind of like Lou Reed with a sense of humor and a southwestern flair. I really dug his snakeskin suit which emitted cloud dusts everytime he moved.