A wild and unique force took hold of Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium this week. PJ Harvey and her 10-piece band put on a truly fierce performance for those that made it out to her show Tuesday night. PJ is friction: she is an uncomfortable feeling that pokes at you to engage with her music, and even more so, with her perception of the world around us. Like a human time bomb, you simply wait and watch to see what strange and fascinating things she will do next.
Tuesday night’s performance was everything. It was awkward, punctuated, solemn, powerful, creative and energizing. The show started as PJ Harvey and her 10 piece band walked out in a straight line, like a funeral march, as they took their places on stage. Harvey went almost unseen as she took a place amongst the horn section, playing her saxophone to start off the show. After the musical intro she stepped forward to the center mic and began the next song. Throughout the show she would flawlessly transition from singing, to howling on her sax, to fading back and becoming a part of the horn section between musical interludes and breaks.
Harvey’s songwriting is starkly different then most. Her lyrical phrases sound like she is reading from a book or report. Each song describing the topic at hand with facts, emotions, and opinions all intertwined. I couldn’t help but feel like Harvey was the audience's Alien Leader, dramatically describing to us the world she just visited. Her setlist included many songs from her new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. They played “The Community Of Hope,” “The Wheel,” “The Ministry of Social Affairs,” “River Anacostia,” and “A Line in Sand,”as well as some old favorites like “Let England Shake,” “Down By The Water,” “The Words That Maketh Murder,” and “When Under Ether.” Harvey and her crew even played a surprise cover of “Highway 61” by Bob Dylan.
In a world full of musical and societal norms, PJ Harvey breaks free. Her recent Denver performance was a brief escape for everyone in the crowd. Check out my favorite song off PJ Harvey’s newest album below.
All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.