John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey;
Bristol; Fleece and Firkin; 12 Oct 1996
By Don Watson; Originally from Caught, http://www.caught.co.uk/
Due to circumstances beyond my control I missed all but the last song from the support act (Terry Edwards and the Scape Goats), but what I did hear came across like a guitar heavy Blurt. Perhaps they were a guitar heavy Blurt, I think we should be told !!!
However, the real reason for pretnding to be a sardine in a sauna was to see local(ish) girl done good PJ (or as she is billed tonight, Polly Jean) and collaborator John Parish play the last of four gigs at Bristol's Fleece and Firkin. Considering just how popular she is nowadays, it is quite novel to see her perform in what is basically a pub, but somehow this inimate setting works in helping Polly and John convey what are at times quite difficult songs.
As the point is to showcase material from their new album, Dance Hall at Louse Point, we get no old songs, fine by me, but this certainly succeeds in upsetting the more conservative members of the audience ('Gawd isn't she so boring'). These unreceptive types will probably be listening to Dire fuckin' Straits in a few years time.
At times the band sound like a bizarre cross between Patti Smith and Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, with a spoonful of Nick Cave thrown in for good measure (In fact the keyboard player is one Eric Drew Feldman, who used to play with the good Captain) and the great thing is that the recipe works!. From a (very) slow version of Brian Eno's 'Here Come the Warm Jets',the melancohlic strumming of 'That was my veil', to the final torchsong, Peggy Lee's 'Is that all there is?', both singer and band provide a solid performance, and the majority of the crowd leave the room happy come the end of the show, knowing full well that it will be a long long time before they get another chance to see an artist of Polly Jean's calibre perform in a venue of this size.