there was no time for hellos or cordial banter. PJ Harvey had a product to flog at the Phoenix on Friday, and she got right down to the business of selling. She didn't even try to create the illusion that the hour-long promotional appearance for her new album had anything to do with the sort of spontaneous artistic expression typical of Harvey's spellbinding live performances.
In the past, her Toronto shows have been shrewdly orchestrated with uniquely talented musicians to maximize dramatic impact. However, this was a straight-up commercial perpetrated by cut-rate jobbers (with Laika's Margaret Fiedler strumming guitar ambience) hired to recreate rather than reinvent.
One after another, the new songs were regurgitated note for note, with Harvey making sure every vocal inflection was in place, as if any deviation might expose her to a false-advertising lawsuit.
Polite applause and pleas for old favourites were met with a forced grin while she waited for her roadie to waddle out and exchange her black Telecaster for a different black Telecaster. Predictably enough, she closed with her stomping, gun-glorifying anthem, Big Exit -- job done.PJ HARVEY at the Phoenix, December 1. Tickets: $20.50. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NN