From the moment PJ Harvey was led onto the stage at Eden by a bass drummer, marching in line with the rest of her nine-strong band, you could tell this was going to be a special gig.
Channeling Stevie Nicks via Galadriel in ephemeral, long-sleeved black, she cut a diminutive-yet-powerful figure as the band insinuated their way straight into Chain of Keys, the sound enveloping the crowd as it would for the rest of the evening.
As Polly swirled, the an impressively monolithic structure seemed to rise through the stage behind her, a grid of concave squares at once art-deco-intriguing and almost brutalistic in appearance, which would be lit with lights of varying colours and harshness for the rest of the night.
The stage set, the crowd eating from her hands, the woman everyone was at Eden to see carried on from song to song, hypnotic swirls and pitch perfect voice mingling with the layered sounds from her backing group – on everything from synths to sax to maracas. They weaved their intricate patterns through songs such as Ministry of Defence, Community of Hope, and Let England Shake, a thoroughly modern PJ Harvey set with little of the past, as the sun set on Eden’s trademark biomes and the greenery surrounding the quarry.
While there was little from her back catalogue – the songs mainly drawn from most recent albums Let England Shake and Hope Six Demolition Project – the crowd seemed more than happy, almost literally entranced by the rythms and the stories their idol was weaving through the veil of her sleeves.
While the pixie figure on the stage commanded the attention of all – the beauty of her voice contrasting oddly with the songs of death, squalor, dust, heat, and misery – she also took her moments to merge back into the band, melding into the soundscapes she had created and taking her turn on saxophone.*
She may not have spoken from the moment she appeared to the moment she introduced the band, ahead of their brief encore, but she shone that night, and if anyone entered Eden not in love with PJ Harvey, they will have left definitely changed.
*Although she could hardly compete with one of her performers, who drew applause for his double-sax playing.