Concert Review – PJ Harvey at Admiralspalast, Berlin

The last time I cried

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I did not really cry exactly, blubbering would be a better word to describe what happened when I finally saw my favorite musician on stage, two years ago. I waited almost ten years to get to one of her shows and I ended up going to two of her concerts in a row.

Polly Jane Harvey is an English solo artist and a multi-instrumentalist who started her career in 1988. She is known for reinventing her sound and her stage persona with each album; to date she released 8 studio albums. At her 2011 tour she promoted her latest record Let England Shake; a highly political album about the trauma of the First World War and the effects of it on England. For this album she won the top British music award, the Mercury Prize for the second time.

The concert took place at Admiralspalast, a theatre located in Berlin’s prestigious Friedrichschein area. For the untrained Eastern-European eyes it must be strange to watch a concert in a theatre. The heavy red baldachin balconies above are always making me nervous for some reason, not to mention the strict non-smoking policy at these fancy venues.

It might be great for most of the music fans, but somehow takes away from my concert experience. One technical thing must be emphasized though, and that is the sound quality at foreign music venues. For the price of your ticket you will get excellent sound quality even at the furthest corner of the place. In addition, foreign audience members are –usually- able to keep their mouths shot throughout the whole show. No unnecessary chit-chats, love confessions or terrible sing alongs. But there was no time to speculate on the surroundings or the urge for a cigarette, because the band started at 20:30, sharp. Harvey walked on stage along with her fellow musicians: Mick Harvey from The Bad Seeds, John Parish her long time collaborator, and the new drummer of the band, Jean-Marc Butty. She was wearing a sophisticated black dress and a strange, feathered, crown like thing on her head; this is the current style that came along with the new album. She played all 12 songs from Let England Shake that the audience took really well. Lyrics-wise it is a rather depressing album but luckily the music is very uplifting. In addition she played 10 old songs from her previously released albums that fit well into the night’s set list. She played the autoharp -the main instrument of the latest record- as well as electric and acoustic guitars, drums and piano. Towards the end of the show she played three of my favorite songs: Down by the Water, C’mon Billy, and Meet Ze Monsta. That was the time when I had to look for a tissue in my pocket and I assume that was the same moment I realized where I was standing for the past hour.

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When it was over I could neither move nor speak. It was the first concert that changed my life. And on the next day, it happened again. She played the same songs with the same level of professionalism; the only difference was that she was wearing a sophisticated white dress this time, and the same strange, feathered, crown like thing on her head. I had been to concerts prior and since this one, there are other musicians whom I admire, but when they finish their shows I always conclude that none of them will ever be able to defeat Polly Jean Harvey.

By: Eszter Tóth

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