PJ Harvey - London
Shepherds Bush Empire, March 11, 1995
Rolling Stone magazine, May 4, 1995
When Polly Jean Harvey finally emerged onstage, a brief moment of contemplative peace fell over the tightly packed room. Necks were craned, heads tilted to the audience could properly regards Harvey's newest incarnation. And with her sinewy figure draped in a silken blood-red dress, she presented a dramatic vision from behind the microphone. Yet this drama was firmly rooted in music, not spectacle: When Harvey growled the opening refrain of "To Bring You My Love," the title track of her forth album, the audience ignited.
Backed by a quartet including Eric Drew Feldman (keyboardist for Frank Black and Captain Beefheart), Harvey relinquished her guitar duties and assumed the role of diva. She moved lithely, alternately taunting and seducing the crowd.
On the slow-grinding "I Think I'm a Mother," Harvey marched stiffly and sang in a disturbingly deep register, taking on the persona of an emasculated man. In "Meet ze Monsta," Harvey turned aggressive, prowling before the audience, provoking us with a hand-held floodlight. She transformed "Fountain" (from her debut album "Dry") into a twisted, romantic plea, contorting her body wistfully, then dropping a handful of white petals over her head. The symbolism was heavy-handed, yet the artifice added tension and depth to her attach; it was an apt visual extension of the lush sonic landscape Harvey and producer Flood achieved on her new record.
The staging could've been a diversion, But Harvey often succeeded in fusing what we saw with what we heard. Closing with "Goodnight," she pounded a stick onstage, sending a pulse vibrating under the audience. And for one last moment we were physically compelled to become part of her personal drama.