Sunday, October 21, 2007


Well, the PJ Harvey show at the Beacon Theater was a few weeks ago, but I've been behind on my writing, and this one took a while to digest. I wasn't sure I wanted to go to the show: tickets went on sale before the album came out, and I'd heard that the album was going to be piano-based and quiet, and I didn't know if I wanted to spend the money.

I am REALLY grateful my friend decided to get a pair of tickets and that she sold me one. It was an incredible show.

When I got PJ's new album, White Chalk, a few days before the show, I was a bit worried to be honest. It is very different for PJ: much quieter, although I wouldn't call it "mellow." It's like radical music from the Victorian era or something. I'm not a musicologist, so that may not be an inaccurate statement, and I may be influenced by her "look" on the album. But the image I keep getting in my mind when I listen to it - and I've been listening to it a lot - is walking in the English countryside (although I've never been to England), finding myself in an centuries-old abandoned house with a ghost. White Chalk is the music that the ghost is singing.

She was really smart about the show, which she performed without any other musicians. She mixed in a good amount of her older material, and switched between piano and guitar and even autoharp (on a very interesting version of "Down By The Water"). Plus, she used some pretty vintage synths and drum machines, which gave it a bizarre semi-modern twist. The crowd was, for the most part, pretty amazing. Very vocally supportive of her (although one moron kept yelling out at her). Much more enthusiasm than you'd expect from the hipster NYC crowd. And it actually had an effect on the show: she seemed genuinely moved by the support and the enthusiasm of the audience. I guess lots of artists dream of being able to do something really different and have their audience go for the ride with them. PJ Harvey seems to have the perfect audience for that. It was a great show (albeit with some slow parts, mainly "Nina" and "Grow, Grow, Grow.")

I'll write more about the album, White Chalk, another time: I'm still digesting it.

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