PJ Harvey, October 30, Vogue Theatre
PJ Harvey is one of my musical heroes. Has anyone strung together six (seven if you count 4-Track Demos) albums of such consistent, uncompromised quality, on a major label no less? She put on a majestic show last weekend at the Vogue. Last time I saw her she was touring for To Bring You My Love. It was a good concert, but I remember being bugged by the lack of rocking that evening, with Polly Jean slinking around, sans guitar, in a pink bodysuit while her band of gentlemen provided sedate backup. The drummer played like he was in Nana Mouskouri’s band, tapping carefully, lest he startle the audience. Not last Saturday. Polly had a new band, a boy band with a gangly mohawked bassist and a grinning kid who thrashed a guitar or a drum kit, depending on the song. Longtimers Rob Ellis (percussion) and Eric Drew Feldman (occasional keyboards) stayed out of our line of sight most of the evening (we got seats off to the side, about six rows back). The show started with Polly on guitar leading the band through “The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth”—pure bile & bludgeon. She put the guitar down for the next few songs, including “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” and “Who the Fuck?” which was the set highlight for me—unbelievably intense, with Polly flinging herself around like mad. The rest of the set calmed down a bit, and drew mainly from the last three albums, reaching back to oldies like “Me Jane,” “I Think I’m a Mother,” “Down By the Water” and “Dress,” during which I felt the full force of Fancy’s enthusiasm as she administered “love taps” to my upper arm. Polly’s not a talkative performer. The songs are the thing. She talked more to the guy running monitors than she did to the crowd. The first set lasted just under an hour, then another half hour of encores, heavy on the hits like “Good Fortune” and “50 Foot Queenie.” She returned for the last time to play “Horses In My Dreams,” sending us home on a calm note. We needed some peace of mind out on the crowded Granville sidewalk, with Hallowe’en in full swing. Best concert of the year.