For swiss standards this 27. edition of the festival at the Lake Léman brought off another real extension. Beside other numerous main acts, six different stages and a special theme zone about Caribbean Culture it was the fact to have both Portishead and PJ Harvey live on the main stage Wednesday and Thursday that stole this swiss festival summer. PJ Harvey had her last swiss concert in 2001, and Portishead partly appeared one or two times in the same period. And considering further important criteria, as the infrastructural management, this leads to the widely objective statement that this festival is second to none in this country.
PJ Harvey surprised with another very distinguished album published in the end of the last year. With “Let England Shake” she tends to concentrate more on lyrical content, basing it on the complex matter of the UK history, and to let the music become a more narrative background. The evaluation of this turn as a whole is a question of taste. What this live concert impressively showed was her unchangeable command of the dramatic structure throughout songs of every album she made. Especially her renewed live versions of older songs, from “Stories from the city, Stories from the sea” or “Is this desire?” for example, offered listening experiences that almost surpassed the originals. Even the miniatures from the album “White Chalk”, seemingly far away from being performable on main stages with band, become coherent parts of the whole set, each one of them at least on an equal level to the primary versions. Despite all the extensive experiments she made in the last ten years, PJ Harvey showed that she remains one of the most genuine female Songwriter where it matters most: on stage.
Portishead proved their ability to perform another very intimate music on a main stage with 20’000 spectators. Due to the circumstance that they only published three regular albums yet, the interpretations of old songs weren’t as creatively varied as PJ’s. Perhaps they should have been. To produce perfect studio records is one thing – to transform them into a convincing live performance another. As honorable as the essay is, this time PJ Harvey’s achievement exceeded it.