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PJ Harvey played Brooklyn Steel (pics, review, setlist)

PJ Harvey‘s weapon of choice on her The Hope Six Demolition tour is the saxophone. You already know this if you caught her last year (or maybe you guessed it from her recent press photo), but I didn’t experience it until her sold-out show at the newly-opened Brooklyn Steel last night (4/20). On the Let England Shake tour, the former guitar hero’s weapon of choice was the autoharp, but now it’s the saxophone. And PJ introduced herself and her sax to the crowd in the most humble way. The band came out in marching band formation, and PJ assumed her position towards the back of the stage with the other horn players. If you didn’t know any better, you might think the singer had yet to take the stage. It was an exciting way for someone as powerful as PJ to switch things up.

But of course, PJ quickly became the star of the show and stayed that way all night. She rocks a sax as much as she rocks an axe, and her command over the crowd was even more noticeable than usual at Brooklyn Steel, a smaller venue than she’s played in NYC in a while. Like on Colbert a night earlier and on last year’s tour, PJ wore an ornate headdress while the rest of her band were in simpler suits, reinforcing that the focus was on her.

The setlist relied most heavily on The Hope Six Demolition material and the musically likeminded Let England Shake material, and PJ and her band sounded fantastic from start to finish. What PJ Harvey pulls off at her live shows is a unique and truly impressive thing. It’s been 25 years since PJ released her debut album, Dry, an album that — along with its immediate successors Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love — are stone-cold classics of raw, ’90s alternative rock. She could sell out shows playing music solely from those three albums, but instead manages to win crowds over with songs that are not only new, but entirely different from her classic sound. Even her most musically adventurous peers like Radiohead play more of a greatest hits set at their shows. At a PJ Harvey show, the oldies are a nice cherry on top but they’re not the main draw.

All that said, the oldies were a very nice treat. Perhaps the nicest of all is that this tour has seen her play “To Bring You My Love” more regularly than she had in years, and that is one hell of a song in the live environment. We also got “Down by the Water” off that same album, a nice taste of her heavier days with “50ft Queenie,” and PJ wrapped up the show with a stunning performance of “The River” off Is This Desire?.

PJ’s tour brings her back to NYC for a larger outdoor show on July 19 at Central Park SummerStage (tickets). That’s right after she plays the Pitchfork and Forecastle festivals.

We’ll be posting pictures of last night’s show soon. UPDATE: Pictures are in the gallery above. Check out the setlist and a clip of her playing “To Bring You My Love” below.

PJ Harvey at Brooklyn Steel – 4/20/17 Setlist (via)
Chain of Keys
The Ministry of Defence
The Community of Hope
The Orange Monkey
A Line in the Sand
Let England Shake
The Words That Maketh Murder
The Glorious Land
Written on the Forehead
To Talk to You
Dollar, Dollar
The Devil
The Wheel
The Ministry of Social Affairs
50ft Queenie
Down by the Water
To Bring You My Love
River Anacostia

Encore:
Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
The River

photos by Dana Distortion

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