Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

PJ Harvey, the Dirty Three
Colston Hall, Bristol

They say that your past always comes back to haunt you, and these days it seems that no matter what happens, Polly Harvey just can't escape the lingering touch of Nick Cave, as his spirit follows her around like some age-old curse. After all of the recent intimations and denials concerning the alleged relationship between the pair, not only has Polly’s new album has finally arrived to draw the attention away from her moribund Antipodean companion, she’s even seen fit to head out on her first tour for a couple of years, but there, lurking just around the corner, are the Dirty Three.

Fronted by part-time Bad Seed, Warren Ellis, the Dirty Three pedal an exhilarating slant on post-rock, effortlessly merging both violin and guitar. While many post-rockers often neglect to actually write a song, believing that the absence of vocals is in itself justification of their art, the Dirty Three subtlety blend their the twang of their instruments together, carrying each other along, providing the opportunity for each other to soar, before clashing together, as the individual squalling cacophonies threaten to eclipse everything else, before subsiding into harmony once more, creating an environment in which the presence of a singer would only distract from the music.

The ensuing subdued mood suits the entrance of PJ Harvey perfectly. Having left behind the more direct hormonal head-fuck blues of her past behind, Polly has, like Nick Cave himself, become a gifted storyteller. Where she would have previously screamed and hollered like a banshee out for blood, she now allows her songs to build to heightened levels of intensity, full of brooding menace. Live, the subtleties of the music become enthralling, providing a much needed atmosphere in the far too clinical surroundings of the Colston Hall, while Polly's more natural, almost relaxed manner gains a magnetic nature, drawing the attention away from Rob Ellis and the various assorted session musicians present on stage.

Unfortunately, this adaptation of style adds to the slight feeling of disappointment with tonight's performance. Although the changes throughout her career have been discreet, the transition has not been without cost. While 'Is This Desire?' definitely warrants the praise lavished upon it as an album, and the likes of 'Angelene' and 'The Sky Lit Up' are fantastic songs deserving of their inclusion tonight, when performed live, the similarity of many of the songs on the new album becomes too much, especially when they make up so much of the set. The few earlier songs included tonight only serve to emphasis this, as the phenomenal 'Snake', the salvation call of 'Taut', and the Beefheart stomp of 'Meet Ze Monsta' give Polly the chance to reel about the stage, howling as if she is about to be consumed, needing to let the blues out before they destroy her very soul.

Polly appears to be in a unique position, she is one of the few artists to remain so consistently good in her recorded output, her newly expressed confidence has seen the music gain centre-stage, but it still seems that something is missing, and it is this that renders this a not quite perfect day.