Last night, PJ Harvey put on a one-of-a-kind show at Warsaw in Brooklyn, New York that featured a poetry reading from her new book, Orlam, an interview with New Yorker staff writer Amanda Petrusich, and a performance of five songs from her new album, I Inside the Old Year Dying. Harvey wore a custom-made dress with one of her drawings embroidered into it, performing in front of a screen that projected her drawings behind her while accompanied by longtime musical collborators John Parish and James Johnston (of Gallon Drunk).
Orlam is a collection of poetry that tells the coming-of-age story of a nine-year-old child. It took Harvey eight years to write, and when she began she didn’t expect songs to emerge from it as they did with the compositions that became her latest record. In Harvey’s words, the book is a place out of time. “Was it dream? Was it real? What era are you in?” Orlam is written in Dorset, a dialect Harvey grew up with in her youth in South West England. When she began writing about childhood, this dialect naturally began to reemerge. During their interview, Petrusich and Harvey touched on the beautiful juxtaposition of words from this ancient dialect being contrasted with things from the modern world such as Pepsi and Elvis Presley.
Harvey also spoke about her hiatus from making music. She stated that after making The Hope Six Demolition Project she fell out of love with music, which was heartbreaking because music had been the love of her life. She revealed that poetry called her back to songwriting, and that the singing on this album is the best she’s done in her life. Through writing Orlam, she fell back in love with music, saying “It really is the love of my life, actually.”
PJ Harvey is planning to tour the US in support of I Inside the Old Year Dying in late 2024. In the meantime, check out images from this special night in Brooklyn below.