"This is my treat to myself at the end of a long tour", says PJ Harvey. Her West Country accent twangs like that of the Cadbury's Caramel bunny, and she's wearing a figure-hugging white dress bearing a picture of Animal, the drummer from The Muppet Show.
Tonight's intimate, semi-acoustic gig - the venue's capacity is less than 400 - is a treat for us, too. We're close enough to make out her facial expressions, and when she stomps her white cowboy boots on the stage floor, or claps a slow flamenco-style accompaniment to "Pocket Knife", she doesn't need a microphone to be heard.
That PJ should choose to celebrate a year of touring with yet another concert speaks volumes. You sense that music is her oxygen, and when she's performing, her body can't help but interpret the accented beats of her often-visceral songs. She shakes a mean maraca and dances so well that her movements look choreographed, although they are not. She's also extremely sexy, largely because she knows the power of her own unconventional beauty.
Naturally, much of the set concentrates on Uh Huh Her, the fine album for which PJ has just been Grammy-nominated. Stomping on footswitches that control the echo in her voice, she glides into easy falsetto on the succinct, propulsive "Shame", while on "Who The Fuck?", she reiterates what we already knew, intoning, "I'm not like other girls, you can't straighten my curls." To her left, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer spends the evening by turns garroting and wooing his instrument, his body bent double.
Further in, there a couple of surprises. Introducing a hypnotic take on The Fall's "Janet, Johnny & James", Harvey describes it as one of her favourite songs in the world. There is also a deliciously raw version of the old Fred Rose/Slim Harpo blues shuffle, "Shake Your Hips", PJ dedicating it to a member of her road crew, and quipping that she's only playing it because she can't remember the words to ZZ Top's "Legs."
Engaging in relaxed banter with her bandmates and the audience, she remains potent and playful throughout. During the encore, punters shout for songs from her back-catalogue that she's a little weary of. "You can't make me play them and I won't!", she says, mock-petulantly, and, given that she's already aired "50 Foot Queenie" from 1993's Rid Of Me, it seems churlish to press the matter.
Instead, she plays "Is This Desire?" and Uh Huh Her's "You Come Through", the latter's electric, left-field album arrangement transformed into a richly dynamic acoustic. Better yet is "The Desperate Kingdom Of Love", which works magic with a simple, timeless-sounding refrain. A wonderful night, and one that PJ seemed to enjoy as much as we did.Reuse content