pj harvey at state theatre 18.01.12

PJ Harvey returned to Australia for the first time in four years last night as part of Sydney Festival. It is always a stressful experience getting tickets to any Sydney Festival event, but even moreso because it was PJ Harvey. It was already clear at the entrance to the venue, that her return was highly anticipated and this was going to be special. Dressed in black from head to toe, she mesmerised the audience with her ethereal presence, with an autoharp, featuring heavily in her latest, Let England Shake clutched tightly to her chestIn their live set-up, the band, which included long time collaborator John Parish, were impeccable as the crisp sounds they produced resonated throughout the State Theatre as they went through the album in its entirety, with highlights including the single, The Words That Maketh Murder as well as a b-side, The Big Guns Called Me Back. It was clear after a couple of songs, that the absence of banter (somewhat characteristic of PJ Harvey shows), as well as little acknowledgement of the audience only added to her ability to move the audience. Even the light set-up, the stage darkened in between each song and minimal light illuminating the stage, supported an album centred around death and war. It is also unmistakable why she has had such an illustrious career so far. Her longevity as a musician is clearly validated by her exquisite song-writing skills, and ability to convey it through the sound medium, even more captivating live. 2008’s White Chalk featured prominently in the set, with Harvey’s voice (sounding much stronger live than on record) soaring across the upper register in songs like The Devil, adding to the emotion rippling through the audienceOccasionally, she switched to guitar to perform several songs from her back catalogue, with Pocket Knife and Down By The Water met with rapturous applause from the audience. Finishing off the main set with the more upbeat The Colour of the Earth, Sydney responded with nothing less than a standing ovation. Returning after a short break, the encore included an early favourite, Angelene and closed with a sublimely haunting rendition of Silence, leaving the audience fulfilled, and happy to have experienced what is definitely one of the highlights of 2012.

Setlist:

Let England Shake
The Words That Maketh Murder
All and Everyone
The Big Guns Called Me Back
Written on the Forehead
In The Dark Places
The Devil
Dear Darkness
The Glorious Land
The Last Living Rose
England
Pocket Knife
Bitter Branches
On Battleship Hill
Down By The Water
C’mon Billy
Hanging In The Wire
The Colour Of The Earth

Encore:
The Piano
Angelene
Silence

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