Polly Harvey delivers a captivating set at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse, despite some issues with the venue.
Here’s the thing about PJ Harvey – it’s not just that she eschews the idea of bending her creativity to fit any kind of commercial mould. It’s that, by now, she follows whatever theme it is that’s inspiring her at that present moment, with little consideration for how it might go over with critics or her fanbase.
The former’s fine; she’s enough of an institution by now to have long since turned the dial down on the analytical response to her music. The latter, though, is a different matter, and you can’t help but suspect that her following have been grappling awkwardly with her latest work, ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, ever since its April release.
When she put out ‘Let England Shake’ five years ago, there was a palpable sense that she’d nailed the concept she was going after; that album’s a withering treatise on England’s relationship with war that anybody packed into the Victoria Warehouse tonight would tell you is never more prescient, especially at this time of year.
This new LP, though, feels a touch muddled; she rails against poverty throughout on a global scale, from Kosovo to Washington D.C., but it all feels awfully spectatorial.
Accusations of voyeurism and poverty tourism are by no means far-fetched. It doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to say that it’s highly unlikely that ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ will be looked back upon with the same fondness and reverence as ‘Let England Shake’.
After all, we’re presently living through some turmoil in the Western world, and ‘Hope Six…’ speaks to none of that, whereas ‘…Shake’ seemed to cut through the establishment’s case for perennial warfare like a hot knife through butter.