Western Gazette 13th August 1998
Polly Jean Harvey
Bridport Arts Centre
There is a dispute as to her origins. Last week GLR pronounced on a lack of musical talent to come from the South West - no-one from the Western Counties had, it seemed, attained international fame.
The Aphex Twins’ assertion of Cornish authenticity was pondered on the airwaves, and a dearth of prodigal musical offspring west of Hampshire was being assumed, when someone phoned in and said that she comes from Cornwall, which was confusing since she’s widely believed to come from Somerset.
Last Monday such musings were silenced, albeit so discreetly that all but the residents of her little village near Bridport will henceforth be able to say that PJ Harvey is from Dorset.
In homage to her own town, Polly Jean Harvey played in the Bridport Arts Centre before leaving for her tour of Europe and the US.
She gave the first public rendering of her imminent album Is This Desire? to an audience that included an ear-plugged baby and the beaming parents of contemporaries who probably knew her when she played a long time ago in the local youth club.
Requiring no introduction she sang about torment, about walking on clifftops, but the words were absorbed by the totality of the performance in which her presence was paramount. She danced, long-limbed and like a puppet, looking like a cutesy Cleopatra. This was a treat for friends. An opportunity for the integration of her worldly, performing and often troubled personal life with the person that browses in Bridport market and goes to yoga classes.
Mostly her famous facade was impenetrable, and she looked quiet the same to me as she did when performing in London last year, until a close friend in the audience accused her of smelling like a badger.
Then she laughed and looked different - toothy and gawky - like a Dorset lass.