PJ Harvey - PJ Harvey –On Tour; Please Leave Quietly- DVD

Bill Cummings 23/04/2006

This DVD is a document of Polly Jean Harvey's 2003- 2004 tour in support of her latest album “UH HUH HUR.” In her own words it's a unique “patchwork quilt” of ramshackle imagery consisting of her performances, backstage footage; spliced with arty imagery from around the venues, cities, and studios that her and her band played in.
It's a testament to Harvey that every thing she releases has that unmistakable mark of quality about it. This isn't your usual glossy airbrushed portrait of an artist on stage and on tour. It's a homespun, raw, slightly chaotic snapshot of life on the road, and the primal music she makes in a live setting. Sometimes the live footage can be quite dizzying, the camera cutting back and forth between footage from various performances. But in terms of the music it's impeccable as always, from the brooding power of more recent material “The Letter” and “ Who the F*ck” to the brilliance older work like her first single “Dress” and “A Perfect Day Elise” which is a dark, quite beautiful ode. It also features two previously unreleased tracks in Uh Huh Hur and Evol, both are well worth lending an ear to.

Quite apart from the usual performance footage you get on these kind of live DVDs, the most revealing segment of this DVD are the extra scenes, they reveal a Polly wrestling with whipping her new touring band into shape, and a kind of honesty and clarity of vision for the DVD itself. She wished to create a series of snapshots of a live experience, not just from the point of view of the fan but from her point of view too. There are also revealing pieces about the creation of her new album as a slightly lo fi personal journey, plus the obligatory mildly amusing backstage scenes: Polly getting drunk after a gig, Polly having her make up removed, Polly selecting the self portraits that will appear on the album. Perhaps my favourite part is the segment where downbeat hymn “Down by the Water” is given visual life through the use of a hand held digital camera in the front seat of a car speeding through the midnight rain.

This is followed on in the extra 28 minute interview extra that delves deeper into PJ's songwriting process, the formation of Uh Huh Hur as a startlingly honest, raw self-portrait of an album that was built upon the foundations of her rough demos recorded on her eight track, and built upon layer by layer. She talks about her work as an evolution and how she likes to shift between extremes: from the lush, orchestrated music of the Mercury-nominated "Stories" to her new material that harks back to her roots in primal garage rock and her anguished arty balladry.

PJ Harvey On Tour - Please Leave Quietly, directed by Maria Mochnacz, is quite an achievement. Often these kinds of DVDs suffer from a lack of personality, the live footage, being generic and sheened and quite like most of what you get from the MTV and VH1 live vaults. There's also the sense that it's another way of making money out of devoted fans. But this DVD manages to buck the trend, presenting something personal, unique and somehow reflecting in part the life of a touring band and an excellent artist at work. It reminded me slightly of Radiohead's superb "Meeting People is Easy" allowing the performances, cities, and cut aways to speak for themselves, whilst giving us a unique insight into the band's personalities and the creation of their music. Well worthy of your investigation, then.