June 29th, 2009 |

Polly Jean Harvey reaffirmed her undeniable prowess with sometime collaborator John Parish at the Wiltern Saturday night. Possessing a mystique and attitude far greater than her slight stature suggests, PJ carried the show with her dominating vocals, which were accentuated by irreverent movements clearly powered by the thralls of performance ecstasy. Everything about the stage set-up informed the audience that we were witnessing more than a mere rock show—instead, an event of theatric proportions. Similarly dressed from head to toe in sophisticated black, the band fused together into a singular unit. Each song was a world of its own, a point driven home by curtain-call-closing-lights-out after each and every song, followed by bows from each member of the band. PJ’s back-and-forth between sporadic spoken word, angelic coo and primal scream worked particularly well with the current band setup, and especially with the backing music of John Parish. Thirteen years after their last collaboration, the pair took on a separate-but-equal approach to the recently released A Woman A Man Walked By, with Parish composing all the music and Harvey writing all lyrics. Even the weakest moments on the album—the unsexy barking of “I want your fucking ass!” on “April,” the meandering melody of “Cracks in the Canvas”—commanded full attention in live form. The stellar standout performances of “Black Hearted Love,” “The Chair” and “Leaving California” solidified that the pair’s collaboration works best live.

—Linda Rapka