PJ Harvey

Glasgow Barrowlands


It takes a degree of confidence for an artist to wait 12 songs before playing something that isn’t from the new album. 

PJ Harvey, however, is no ordinary artist, and the rapturous reception from her spellbound audience proved that self-belief was entirely justified.

Six years on from her last Scottish show, Polly Jean could comfortably have played the OVO Hydro, Glasgow’s largest auditorium.

Instead, she opted to perform over two nights at the city’s most beloved venue. Dressed in all-white on her second night at Glasgow’s Barrowlands, Harvey and her four-piece band delivered a set of two halves. 

The Herald: PJ Harvey played two nights at Glasgow's famous BarrowlandsPJ Harvey played two nights at Glasgow's famous Barrowlands (Image: Adam Miller/Newsquest)

The first consisted entirely of I Inside the Old Year Dying, which she introduced earlier this year as an album “about searching, looking - the intensity of first love, and seeking meaning.”

Intensity was evident from the outset, and her audience responded with a hushed reverence during songs that made the famous ballroom feel more intimate than usual.

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Harvey recently told Vulture that “my voice is actually better than it’s ever been”, and few in the crowd would argue, with the 53-year-old in complete command of her instrument (not to mention her acoustic guitar, electric guitar and autoharp) throughout a mesmering performance. Of the new material, Lwonesome Tonight (sic) and A Child’s Question, August were particular standouts. 

Every last detail feels meticulously planned, with her striking stage set created by award-winning designer Rae Smith, show directed by theatre director Ian Rickson and all-white ensemble designed by Todd Lynn, who has been working with Harvey since dressing her for 2001’s striking This Is Love video.

The stage set for the PJ Harvey tour is the work of award-winning designer Rae Smith, who made these drawings during rehearsals.

Harvey left the stage to her band for The Colour Of The Earth from 2011’s Let England Shake, the album which made her the only artist to have won two prestigious Mercury Prizes.

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She returned for two powerful songs from that album, kicking off a run of 11 numbers from a spectacular catalogue spanning over 30 years. The standard never dropped, from the yearning, gorgeous Angelene to the glorious noise of Man-Size.

The Herald: Three songs from Harvey's Mercury-winning album Let England Shake were performedThree songs from Harvey's Mercury-winning album Let England Shake were performed (Image: PA Images)

During a beautiful rendition of The Desperate Kingdom Of Love, you could hear a pin drop on the sticky Barrowlands floor. There was no sea of camera phones or restless crowd chatter. Few could look away from this singular performer at the height of her powers. 

It was only after the menacing, ecstatically received Down By The Water, 22 songs in, that she finally addressed her audience. A majestic To Bring You My Love followed.

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Harvey ended the night with her first ever public rendition of Dark Eyes by Bob Dylan, departing with the words “What a lovely night. Thanks for making us so happy”. 

The cheers and stomping feet suggested that feeling was mutual.