"It seems like so long I played in New York — ages, really," PJ Harvey remarked to a sold-out crowd at the Beacon Theatre last night. Looking like one of the Brontë sisters in a white frock dress, the indie rocker, now almost 40 (!), performed a motley mix of songs to a reverential crowd at her only scheduled show on the East Coast.
Sans opening act and backing band, Harvey played a 90-minute set drawing from all parts of her discography, with a focus on her minimalist but likable new album, White Chalk. Despite some time out of the spotlight and, well, the effects of aging, her vocal range still filled every square inch of the venue, on songs like the erotic "This Is Love" and the startling "Down by the Water."
Harvey moved around the stage, which was decorated with a few simple Christmas lights, alternately playing the guitar and funking around with amps, keyboards, cymbals, and even a maraca. (2004’s Uh Huh Her featured Harvey on every instrument, save for the drums.) As Harvey had just recently learned to play the piano, a metronome assisted her during the song "White Chalk."
Admitting to having written lyrics down on her dress, Polly Jean joked with the crowd and seems to be markedly less angsty these days. At one point, she told us, "Things get better when you get older." In her case, we're inclined to agree. —Sadia Latifi