I Inside the Old Year Dying: The Tour in Paris

My heart raced at a dizzy­ing tem­po, and beads of sweat trick­led down my spine. This was the moment I had yearned for my entire life. For years, I had been cap­ti­vat­ed by the enig­mat­ic artist PJ Har­vey, yet the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wit­ness her live had always elud­ed me.

The elusive icon

PJ Har­vey had long been an elu­sive icon, shy­ing away from the spot­light, rarely grac­ing social media, and infre­quent­ly embark­ing on tours. How­ev­er, all the stars aligned on that mem­o­rable Thurs­day night at the icon­ic L’Olympia in Paris.

PJ Harvey
PJ Har­vey at the Tour’s rehearsals, 2023
Art­work of the album I Inside The Old Year Dying, PJ Har­vey, 2023

The antic­i­pa­tion was pal­pa­ble as the audi­ence col­lec­tive­ly held its breath, know­ing that she would open with “Prayer at the Gate,” the inau­gur­al track from her lat­est album, “I Inside the Old Year Dying.” With nos­tal­gic chords and poignant lyrics that spoke of shat­tered child­hood dreams and the trau­ma of grow­ing up and let­ting go, PJ Har­vey’s ethe­re­al voice res­onat­ed through­out the venue. Her instru­ment, her voice, found a new, haunt­ing­ly beau­ti­ful tone, dif­fer­ent from her pre­vi­ous works like “White Chalk” when she explored a high­er vocal range, or “Let Eng­land Shake,” where she wove epic and har­row­ing tales of war.

Her new sound

On this album, her sound was airi­er, more mys­te­ri­ous, and sur­re­al, evok­ing the feel­ing of wan­der­ing in a dense for­est, lost in the wilder­ness, and ensnared in con­tem­pla­tion.

Rehearsal draw­ings by Rae Smith, 2023
PJ Harvey
PJ Har­vey per­form­ing on tour, 2023

After a tran­quil start with her lat­est work, the first crescen­do arrived as she took up her folk gui­tar, pluck­ing melan­cholic chords that res­onat­ed deeply. The new album, inspired by her poet­ry book “Orlam” and enriched with words from the Dorset dialect of her upbring­ing, had received crit­i­cal acclaim.

Draft of the song I Inside The Old I Dying, PJ Har­vey, 2022

As she con­clud­ed the songs from her lat­est record with “A Noise­less Noise,” the jour­ney through the depths of her illus­tri­ous career began. It was a trip back in time with “The Colour Of The Earth,” “The Glo­ri­ous Land,” and “The Words that Maketh Mur­der,” three icon­ic tracks from “Let Eng­land Shake,” in which she sang sen­sa­tion­al­ly poignant war nar­ra­tives. The album was inspired by the wounds inflict­ed by World War I on her home­land, and these words remain as cru­cial today as ever.

A journey to the 90s

“Ange­lene” trans­port­ed us back to the ’90s, with her deep­er, more res­o­nant voice that harkened back to her ear­ly career with “Man Size” and “Dress,” accom­pa­nied by elec­tri­fy­ing gui­tars that rever­ber­at­ed through the audi­ence.

The most inti­mate moment of the evening arrived with “The Des­per­ate King­dom Of Love.” PJ Har­vey stood alone on the stage with her folk gui­tar, accom­pa­nied only by her voice and clas­si­cal chords, yet it was more than enough to move every heart in the room.

PJ Harvey
PJ Har­vey per­form­ing on tour, 2023

To con­clude, she per­formed the sweep­ing “To Bring You My Love” with unpar­al­leled emo­tion. At the encore, she wrapped up her tour with a ten­der ren­di­tion of “White Chalk,” a song most styl­is­ti­cal­ly aligned with her lat­est album.

A night to remember

My joy knew no bounds when I learned that this Parisian con­cert would be broad­cast on nation­al radio. It allowed me to relive the entire con­cert, immers­ing myself once more in the tran­scen­dent atmos­phere that PJ Har­vey con­jured for her audi­ence. This audio jour­ney enabled me to explore the decades-span­ning per­for­mance, unveil­ing hid­den high­lights and sub­tle moments that I might have missed ini­tial­ly.

Rehearsal draw­ings by Rae Smith, 2023

PJ Har­vey’s voice has evolved, her style has trans­formed, yet every­thing was impec­ca­bly orches­trat­ed. The mas­ter­ful tran­si­tions and seam­less flows between songs made it seem as though they were mere sec­onds apart, not decades sep­a­rat­ed by a leg­endary career.

We are indeed for­tu­nate to share the same era as Pol­ly Jean Har­vey. Her music, an eter­nal gift to the world, con­tin­ues to shape and inspire gen­er­a­tions of artists and admir­ers alike.

Written by David Ferrero
February 13, 2024

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