PJ Harvey & John Parish
at Birmingham Town Hall
With PJ Harvey teaming up with John Parish again you know you're in for a performance.
This isn't Polly Jean strapping on her electric guitar and firing out grungey riffs as she commands the stage. This is an opportunity for the collaboration's two albums to get an airing and we get a more angular and introspective Harvey.
She seems smaller in her black dress, lining up alongside the suited and be-hatted musicians, but all eyes are on her.
First she smiles and bounces her way through Black Hearted Love, lulling the audience into the comfort zone before raising the intensity with Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen.
PJ serves up vulnerability, aggression, and sadness to an appreciative crowd at the Town Hall, always assured and powerful, whether it be the feminine rage of A Woman A Man Walked By, the waif-like innocence of April, or the humorous display of petulance in Pig Will Not.
Parish takes the songs through range of styles, picking up a banjo and ukelele to create a new canvas when necessary. It has to be said the band do look very Bad Seeds-ish but musical comparisons to Nick Cave probably only surface a couple of times.
Otherwise there are slender glimpses of other strong artists: Bjork, but not as unhinged; Tori Amos but more challenging; or Kate Bush, but not as flighty.
However, between the theatrics, PJ keeps smiling and there's a lot of two-way warmth with the audience.