On Friday morning at 6.40am I flew to Brussels for a gig that I had been looking forward to for months. I was finally going to see PJ Harvey, live in Brussels. It was nice to be able to incorporate such a great gig into a break away for the weekend. We arrived in Brussels quicte early so had the whole day for exploring before the concert. We got our bearings and strolled around for a few hours before heading to the hotel for a nap before PJ. Heading out for dinner before the gig we realised how small Brussels is when we found that the concert was on just a few streets from our hotel. We stumbled across the Cirque Royale almost by accident.
We arrived soon after 8 and got a drink. Cirque Royale, although not tiny is quite an intimate venue. Our seats were in the circle, 2nd row with a great view of the stage.
As the people poured in the anticipation grew, with people nearby listening to Let England Shake on their iPods. Shortly after 8.30pm, the band took to the stage. PJ Harvey was dressed in a long black dress with big heavy boots underneath which made a clunking noise everytime she walked to change her instrument. On her head was a feathered headdress. She stood to the right of the band and remained there for the complete show.
The concert kicked off with the title song of the new album, Let England Shake. This was followed by five more songs from the new album before moving onto The Devil from White Chalk, The River and Angelene from Is this Desire? before returning to some more of Let England Shake which over the night was played in its entireity. Crowd-pleasers were Down by the Water and C’mon Billy from To Bring you my Love. Following the final song the crowd applauded and then continued to clap for at least five minutes until she came back onstage, introduced the band, performed Silence as an encore and then it was over.
This was a special concert. I have been a fan of PJ Harvey for a long time but hadn’t had the opportunity to see her perform. Nothing could have prepared me for how great it was to see her. I had listened to Let England Shake a few times in the week leading up to the concert and I had enjoyed the darkness of the lyrics, the themes of war and death coupled with more upbeat melodies but since seeing PJ Harvey, John Parish, Mick Harvey and drummer Jean-Marc Butty perform it so excellently, I will never listen to it the same way again. I shall hear every drumbeat as clearly as that night – the ratatatat of gunfire, the military tattoo sound. I shall see PJ rhythmically strumming the auto-harp, electric or acoustic guitar or swaying when she wasn’t playing an instrument. I’ll remember how John Parish and Mick Harvey interchanged places and instruments throughout the set.
I can’t wait to see her again. I have my fingers crossed that she will be playing at Electric Picnic 2011 otherwise who knows when my next opportunity to see her might be.