PJ Harvey On Tour: Please Leave Quietly Review
Please Leave Quietly, PJ Harvey’s first DVD release, offers up a pick ‘n’ mix selection from her 2004 tour to promote the Uh Huh Her album. Switching between venues both in the UK and the abroad, and various festivals, the disc presents 16 songs culled from all over the singer’s career. Of course, Uh Huh Her is understandably given prominence, but there’s also a pick ‘n’ mix mentality in operation when it comes to the song selections; you’re as likely to hear a number from Dry as you are from Is This Desire?, say, although Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (arguably Harvey’s most commercial long player to date) is represented by just a single number.
This rough hewn approach is, of course, there on purpose. In-between songs we get various bits of backstage activity and video diaries, the latter of which reveal Harvey’s intentions. She speaks of the “slick product” that concert pieces often amount to and her desire instead to communicate the “ramshackle-ness that [touring] is” and its “changeability”. Thus we cut from gig to gig within a particular number, pay witness to rehearsals and sound checks and are generally privy to plenty of off-the-cuff moments. As a result we do in fact get more than the 16 numbers detailed below courtesy of such snippets (and as such Stories from the City… does get a bit more of an airing), but then it’s also debatable as to whether these additions amount to anything meaningful. Certainly, you could argue that the tour itself never really amounted to anything meaning behind the scenes, yet these moments are neither fruitful enough to entice the newcomer, nor interesting enough to the hardened fan to ensure repeat viewings. The likely event is that reacquaintance with the disc will involve simply skipping from track to track whilst avoiding these extraneous details in-between.
Indeed, it’s the music which is the important thing and Please Leave Quietly undoubtedly satisfies in this department. The rough hewn nature in which it’s been captured is really beneficial and matches Harvey’s stage dynamics especially well. Stripping the songs down to the essentials so that they all fell of a piece - from the dub-like Is This Desire? numbers to the punkier Uh Huh Her efforts - there’s a primal nature which complements the scratchy editing textures without either seeming out of place. Admittedly, director Maria Mochnacz (with whom Harvey has collaborated since the beginnings of her career) does occasionally veer too heavily towards the self-consciously arty - ‘Dress’ is rendered during its first half solely through an overhead camera shot - but for the most part she keeps things simple, basic and unobtrusive. Camera placements generally stick to the essentials, whilst the handheld work remains focussed on its subjects and never runs away within itself. In other words, had this been a simple concert video as opposed to the pseudo-documentary that it is, then it would no doubt have been a near essential purchase to sit alongside Rid of Me, To Bring You My Love and the rest; as it is, we arrive at a slightly compromised effort hampered by its own ambitions.
Please Leave Quietly comes to Region 0 DVD courtesy of Island Records, Harvey’s current label, and on the whole they’ve treated it pleasingly well. The concert comes in a ratio of 1.33:1, is in the NTSC format and copes well with Mochnacz various formats. Of course, this combination of DV and the like makes it difficult to ascertain just how well the disc does, though it does appear that there aren’t any immediately noticeable technical flaws. More important is the soundtrack and here we find a fine PCM mix which handles the gig material without problem and effortlessly captures their energy and atmosphere.
In terms of extras here we find a lengthy interview with Harvey-cum-featurette. Lasting 28 minutes, this piece allows the singer to discuss not only the process of touring, but also spend plenty of time on Uh Huh Her and its creation. In fact, the presence of such a feature makes you wonder why all of the additional material found within the concert wasn’t simply made available amongst the extras - it would certainly have made the concert itself more readily watchable.
Meet Ze Monsta
Uh Huh Her
Down by the Water
The Darker Days of Me & Him
A Perfect Day Elise
Who the F**k?
My Beautiful Leah