... live in bristol england 1996
by steve phillips
article written in october 1996
published in "sadness is in the sky magazine" issue 2

Before getting a chance to bury ourselves alive in the 'Dance Hall At Louse Point' LP, my favourite band seeker and I doused ourselves, after a 30 hour plane flight, in Ms Harvey and Mr Parish's live interpretation of it. The second of only three performances to showcase their spankin' new record, Polly Jean and John Parish had 400 English punters steaming up the small Bristolian pub filled with high humidity, little circulation and heavy duty anticipation.

Rushing to find accommodation, we missed dEUS from Antwerp, Belgium who I overheard (eavesdropped) were excellent. Whilst standing next to a tall, large, bald man and gazing at various moosehead's on the pub walls, I concluded that Paul McGuinness, manager to 'young guns' U2 and to PJ Harvey herself, had spies everywhere as every detail of the venue and dEUS show was reported to him. Moments fatigued against a poker machine, my partner and I watched glaze-eyed as Polly Jean, John Parish, Rob Ellis(PJ Harvey, Spleen), Eric Drew Feldmann(Captain Beefheart) and Jeremy Hogg(Pere Ubu) took their positions on stage, and commenced with the instrumental title-track from "Dance Hall At Louse Point" which certainly seemed to warm up the band, and fast as they sped through a non-stop trilogy from the LP, the excellent 'Urn With Dead Flowers...','Civil War Correspondent' and 'Heela'. Inbetween tracks, Polly Jean exchanged casual, friendly-like natter with her stagemates and generally received all attention from the crowd, deservedly so as she, all of four feet tall held the audience like no one I've ever seen apart from Perry Farrell, effortlessly, her fur stilettos tapping religiously as she took on guitar duties for "Taut" and diva stance for "City Of No Sun" and "Is That All There Is?".

Equal partner on the record, John Parish seems infinitely comfortable with the 'back seat' on stage, remaining shrouded in darkness for much of the show along with the other musicians, among them Eric Drew Feldmann whose one-finger keyboard style is inspirational! Jeremy Hogg also came across with a rather menacing guitar style, yet always appearing to be more than in control. The musical quality and strength of comradery between the band made them appear like the local heroes returning home after conquering the world, to those who first appreciated them. I feel ultimately the highlights were the very theatrical 'Is That All There Is?' with Polly Jean kinda camping up a standard, dripping with lines of disappointment and yet hope in the face of disappointment, and the ache of 'Un Cercle Autour Du Soleil' and 'City O f No Sun', brilliant!

All 12 tracks from "Dance Hall At Louse Point" were unleashed, with 'Lost Fun Zone' providing a fine encore prior to the arrival on-stage of Bad Seed, Mick Harvey. With Mick in tow, the band spurted out a non-LP track along with a medley of numerous tracks penned by Mr Harvey, namely from his 'Intoxicated Man' record. A spot of trouble brewing when Mick forgets the lyrics to one track resulted in hearty smiles from all involved, including by this stage, members of dEUS on violin and guitar, forming an incredible all-star troupe! Like the LP, this show reflected a slightly less dramatic and intense air than does much of the 'PJ Harvey' material, and appeared moreso to allow the musicians involved an opportunity to hang out, play some great tunes and enjoy the result. For John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey it just further reinforces the fact that when they collaborate together they produce some most impressive music. As expected, brilliant!

Polly Jean Harvey & John Parish's LP 'Dance Hall At Louse Point' is out on Island.