I saw the best concert I have ever seen in my life this past Tuesday as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Less than a mile from the flat, we were able to walk up to The Edinburgh Playhouse to see PJ Harvey perform with her band on their Hope Six Demolition Project tour. I have been a fan of Polly Jean Harvey for years but have never had the opportunity to see her in person.
I have been very fortunate to see many amazing bands and artists starting at a relatively young age - thanks to my older brother Sean's influence (my even older brother Ben influenced me musically as well, but was already away from home by the time I was going to gigs). Anyway, I digress.
Basically, I have seen my fair share of great bands. However, PJ Harvey made me cry. I have never totally understood those videos showing the girls crying and going crazy for the Beatles but now I think I do. This was just the perfect show.
This might have been the first show I wore my middle aged glasses to and I was so glad I did. I kept my eyes peeled, glued to the stage, forgetting to blink. I also sometimes forgot to breathe and when I remembered, they were deep breaths - to breathe in the whole experience. I sat in my seat in rapt attention, aware that I was seeing a true and commanding artist.
The set design was minimal, the lighting ethereal, the band was tight and perfectly theatrical and were equals with PJ and her powerful voice and gestures. She said no words between songs, a tight ship. The show started just after 8pm and was over by 9:30. She played 18 songs (16 making the perfect set and then a two song encore). These songs were expertly curated heavily from her previous two albums (Hope Six Demolition Project and Let England Shake) and a dash here and there of some her best older tunes (50ft Queenie was a raucous surprise from her album Rid of Me). There were also two of my favourites from White Chalk as well as two from To Bring You My Love. She played tracks from Is This Desire? and Uh Huh Her as well. The songs fitted together into the perfect summation of her impressive career to this point. As an artist, she seems to only get better and that was thrilling and inspiring to watch.
Tears rolled from my eyes and under my glasses as a smile crept across my face with every drum beat, heavy sax, and perfect guitar drone as PJ directed us through her dark and majestic music with gestures and voice cutting through the air, her face aglow in the silvery light. For that hour and thirty minutes, I disappeared "into the ether, one world to the next."