The support act for tonight’s show is Howe Gelb; a man, a guitar and two microphones. A simple but effective performance that fully engages the audience. Howe’s descriptive storytelling lyrics are placed competently over his blues guitar, whilst using different effects through one of the microphones to complement the sound further. In addition, Howe demonstrates his British sense of humour through his lyrics and between song banter which wins the crowd over further. His set is short yet powerful making it a joy to experience and preparing everyone for the arrival of Harvey and Parish.
PJ Harvey and John Parish enter the stage right on time, accompanied by three further musicians, and launch into Black Hearted Love. This is the first track from their recent collaboration, A Woman A Man Walked By, and is probably the most commercially accessible song on the album. The live performance does it more than justice, with Harvey’s unique vocal ability cutting through the Town Hall with such strength for one so delicate. Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen demonstrates further Harvey’s ability to create a mighty sound enhanced by the other musicians on stage, whilst the crowd fully appreciate what they are witnessing. The set proceeds with all the band members managing to maintain the high standard of musicianship which they created within the initial ten minutes of the show. The simplistic nature of the lights and plain backdrop enhance the experience ; however, Harvey is so enigmatic it is hard to imagine anything having the ability to distract you from her performance.
Every track played live provides far more depth and meaning to the album, it makes the album make sense. Noticeably, tracks such as The Soldier and The Chair capture my attention fully for the first time whilst the passion conveyed throughout A Woman A Man Walked By / The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go is immense. The only track that I continued to struggle with is Leaving California, not due to a weak performance but the vocal line being too dissonant for me, personally. After an hour, the set ends with a highly entertaining rendition of Pig Will Not, which sees Harvey barking at certain points with a knowing smirk on her face. The band return for an encore with Parish taking the vocals for the first and only time before Harvey returns to the helm to finish with April. The response from the crowd is genuine admiration for the performance they have experienced and this is returned with warm and sincere thanks from all of the musicians, particularly Harvey. Before arriving, I had a certain sense of trepidation about tonight’s show, as I was not a massive fan of either of Harvey and Parish’s collaborations; yet, I leave far more excited about listening to both the albums again in a new light.
Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Jim Turner