REVIEW: PJ Harvey & John Parish @ House of Blues, Boston, MA (6/6/09)

It’s about time I post my review of the completely stellar PJ Harvey & John Parish show at House of Blues on Saturday night. I was blown away by how good they sounded, this being my first time ever seeing PJ Harvey live in over a decade of being a fan. It was likely one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen (and I don’t say that lightly, especially considering the number of shows I’ve seen in my day). PJ made a point of noting that she and John Parish would be playing material exclusively from their two albums together (A Woman A Man Walked By and Dance Hall at Louse Point) but I still heard a few “play the old stuff!” comments from a few obnoxious drunk women standing nearby (one of which was kicked out of the show altogether for stumbling around, much to the delight of the people trying to enjoy the show around her). Enough of the bitching though because the majority of the crowd by far was really into it and respectful and definitely seemed familiar with the material. Though my tickets were marked second balcony, the floor was open to all tickets so I ended up about 5 people back from the stage.

The set itself highlighted the stylistic range of material on their two joint albums,  including the thunderous , grizzly rock of “Pig Will Not” (which featured PJ literally barking “I will not!”)  and the mournful, spoken-word ballad “Cracks in the Canvas.” A Woman A Man Walked By’s “16, 15, 14,” (the second song after an assured performance of  their recent single “Black Hearted Love”) worked itself up into a frenzy, as PJ furiously chanted “there is no laughter in the garden” sounding like a child or a maniac or perhaps both.  She seemed to revel in the opportunity to focus solely on singing, as she does not play guitar or piano on any songs on this tour, (Parish and their backing band are stunningly tight). The fact is PJ’s voice is an instrument in itself, with the power and restraint to channel a cast of characters, both child-like and ancient, wistful and deranged, joyous and enraged.

The full setlist was as follows: Black Hearted Love/16, 15, 14/Rope Bridge Crossing /Urn with Dead Flowers in a Drained Pool/Civil War Correspondent/Soldier/Taut/ The Chair/Leaving California/Un Cercle Autour du Soleil/A Woman A Man Walked By Passionless, Pointless/Cracks in the Canvas/Pig Will Not/False Fire/April