No White Cliffs of Dover from PJ Harvey at the State Theatre


It’s not often I sit down to a rock and roll concert, but this week at the State Theatre in Sydney, we were obliged to do so for PJ Harvey’s Sydney Festival gig.

And, surprisingly, it worked. The muted, awkward, whoops and lack of desire to shake ones booty to the passionate tunes and pounding rhythms from Let England Shake was not just because the resident jobsworths would’ve swooped on us like a Cinema usher protecting a young couples virtue in 1963. The extraordinary lyrics, much heard this past year, in this new setting helped too.

Resplendent in robes, bodice and horns, Ms Harvey and her complement played with our emotions throughout, providing an excellent – yet not exactly mirrored – rendition of one of last years most celebrated albums. Yet another magnum opus from an artist who I think has previously presented at least three.

Moistening of the eyes was even encountered at the opening to Bitter Branches, On Battleship Hill, and In the Dark Places, but this wasn’t a sad concert. The triumphant nature of musical accompaniment provided an¬†impressive counterpoint to the emotionally challenging lyrics.

One of the thoughts which came to me toward the end, especially as they will no doubt soon start preparing for the 100th anniversary of the butchery which influenced many of the songs, is Let England Shake should become required listening before the commemorations which will soon arrive. Remember what happened and why it happened that way, not what they would like you to believe about their wars.

As in Hanging in the Wire, there was no White Cliffs of Dover and nothing from perhaps her previous most commercial tome – despite one of the few contributions from the floor looking for some good fortune. But this was an uplifting concert all the same, and for someone who rarely gets to enough live music these days a more than fitting way to start 2012.

Keep it up Polly Jean, those who continually push the boundaries should always be celebrated. I’m already looking forward to the next time you visit Sydney.

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