Sunday, October 08, 2006

“I feel like I’m playing for my family…”

On Thursday my friend Matt (he went with me to The Flaming Lips show) sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to see PJ Harvey at the New Yorker Festival, Someone in his office had a ticket, and it was up for grabs because 1) people already had plans or 2) they had no idea who she was. I of course told him yes. I actually had a conversation about Ms. Polly Jean last week with my brother and how I really wanted to see her live, but it might be difficult since she rarely tours these days. So to get the opportunity to see her in such a different way (interview and then performance), in a small, intimate setting was ideal.

The event was titled, “PJ Harvey talks with Hilton Als: A Conversation with Music.” Hilton interviewed her back in 2001 for The New Yorker, where he is a staff writer (duh!) and theatre critic. Most of the conversation/interview included questions about how she got her start, why art college never worked out for her, and her influences. I was very luck to be a stone’s throw away from her on stage. I sat on the side of the stage in this VIP-esque area where I met some new friends and fellow fans. Sometimes it helps to go to these things alone, because it’s easier to sneak in somewhere by yourself.

She was very humorous, soft-spoken, and honest. She considers herself a shy, private person, but yet on stage when she performs she is an extrovert. She shared stories of growing up in England, her first band, deferring art college, and how funny it is running into Tricky on the streets or in the grocery stores of LA: “We’re both from Bristol, and here we are now both in LA…”

After the formal conversation with Hilton, the audience got a chance to ask some questions, and she politely answered them. Many of them all started out with, “Omigod! I love you some much…I can’t believe you’re here…” But at least the people pulled it together enough to get around asking the question.

After the Q&A, Hilton excused himself so that she could take the stage solo to perform. What a treat! Just her, her guitar and piano, and us, the hopelessly devoted. When she stood in front of us she said, “I feel like I’m playing for my family. I can’t stand up here and be all rock star. You’ve just seen me as a person.” Very sweet. She played some familiar favorites that included, “My Beautiful Leah,” “Rid Of Me,” “Man-Size,” and “The Desperate Kingdom of Love.” Then she allowed us to hear some of her new songs, which were played on the piano. She said she received a piano as a gift 3 or 4 months ago, and after first being intimidated by it, she slowly warmed up to it, and now most of her new songs are on the piano.
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After an hour, yes just an hour (she was the early show…we had to leave for Randy Newman), she waved good-bye to a standing crowd. I really hope to see her again, once the new album is finished. I think seeing her be all rock star would be fantastic.
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New Song: “Bitter Little Bird”

My favorite PJ Harvey album is “Stories from the City, Stories form the Sea” This is one of my quintessential New York City albums. It’s all about NYC, being in love, and being in love in NYC. All of the songs have a depth and an emotion to them that just make you feel like you are experiencing the city for the first time…even if you have never been!
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Good Fortune” I had to include the video:

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