Saturday, June 20, 2009

Old Habits

PJ Harvey & John Parish
The Warfield, San Francisco

June 19, 2009

I've been following PJ Harvey (PJH) since Day One and the first time I saw her was on her debut U.S. Tour at Slim's back in 1992. However, at this point I follow PJH out of habit more than anything else; I don't want my fanboy record to be broken now that I've come so far with her. It's been almost 5 years since PJ Harvey last played in San Francisco and my fandom hasn't been easy in recent years since her last 2 albums have not really engaged me at all... but old habits are hard to break.

This tour is co-billed as PJ Harvey and her longtime collaborator John Parish with a setlist featuring only songs from the albums they've recorded together: The latest album A Woman A Man Walked By and 1996's Dance Hall At Louse Point. The partnership dates back to their first band, Automatic Dlamini, in the late 80's and Parish has also played on several of PJH's albums over the years and been a member of her touring band as well.

It was obvious what kind of performance it was going to be as soon as PJH and the band walked single file onto the stage: the guys were dressed in suits and ties and PJH was barefoot in a plain black dress. Besides Parish the band consisted of PJH's other long time cohort (and S.F. resident) Eric Drew Feldman and two new Euro guys on drums and bass / guitar respectively. The set kicked off with 'Black Hearted Love' from the new album and it was a stellar performance, but after 90 minutes I was honest enough to admit I was not a fan of the setlist. I can't argue the artistic decision for PJH only playing songs from her catalog with Parish, but after an almost 5 year absence it was a bummer that all of her best (and most well-known) songs were left on the shelf. Although the audience was enthusiastic, I couldn't help but wonder how many of them didn't know any of the songs in the set; I would venture to guess quite a few.

(Pic by Umlaut)

As I said, I can't argue with PJH's artistic decision regarding this tour, but I was disappointed that the set did not at least include my 2 favorite songs from the PJH / Parish collaborations; there was no 'That Was My Veil' and no 'Losing Ground'... Which was disappointing since it's not like the PJH / Parish catalog is huge (2 albums and a couple of non-LP B-sides)! So, with even those songs missing in action, I have to say the set left me feeling indifferent, which has never happened to me in the 6 times I've seen PJH live. Bummer.... but when you follow an artist out of habit you gotta take the disappointments with the good.

If you bought one of every PJ Harvey merch item you would have paid $75. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. After the show, we made a suspicious delivery in SoMa and then dodged alot of late night Mission 911 action for a post gig burrito at Cancun.

The End.