Live Review: PJ Harvey, Xylouris White

19 January 2017 | 7:05 pm | Scott Aitken

"Harvey took centre stage under a lone spotlight to deliver an incredible version of 'Missed'."

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Fans were gathered on the lawns of Fremantle Arts Centre early on Tuesday night, in preparation for the much-anticipated return of PJ Harvey since her last live shows here in 2012. This time around, however, Harvey was bringing a massive ten-piece band with her, including such notable guests as ex-Bad Seed Mick Harvey and John Parish, in support of her critically acclaimed and recently Grammy-nominated ninth album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. 

As the sun went down, the powerhouse combination of Dirty Three drummer Jim White and famed Cretan lute player George Xylouris delivered an incredibly energetic and full-throttle set under the moniker Xylouris White. Xylouris looped his drone-like lute playing through his amplifier for a rockier sound while the always-confident and charismatic White delivered a frenetic blast of jazz-inspired rhythms.

The sounds of a marching band rang out just after 8pm as PJ Harvey wandered on stage flanked by her bandmates and all looking like a New Orleans funeral band as they took their places among an array of instruments. Harvey swayed and commanded the stage with her presence and warm vocals. Behind them a grid of cubes rolled out on a screen, mimicking the claustrophobic feel of the apartments in Harvey's songs.

They followed on with the title track from Let England Shake before playing more songs from that album including The Words That Maketh Murder, which had the crowd singing along to the chorus and Harvey's call and response. 

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After The Glorious Land and Written On The Forehead, Harvey took centre stage under a lone spotlight to deliver an incredible version of Missed with her operatic falsetto sending a chill down everyone's spines. Dollar, Dollar featured a blistering saxophone solo from Terry Edwards, who was flanked by Harvey playing her own horn, before they delved into The Devil, The Wheel and The Ministry Of Social Affairs.

After that, the stage went dark blue as Harvey went into her older, rockier material with 50ft Queenie, Down By The Water and To Bring You My Love. Harvey and the band capped off the performance with the sweet, bubbling sounds of River Anacostia, which saw the whole band singing the refrain together a cappella at the front of the stage.

They returned shortly after with a fiery, brass-laden version of Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited before capping off the incredible performance with Is This Desire?