Almost two years ago now, I wrote a blog on here about her constant, impressive reinvention: how, for every album, she often learns a new instrument, finds a new lyrical field and changes her look. Last night, she came dressed as the village witch from the Dark Ages, all crow headdress and linen sack dress wrapped with leather.
It was magnificent and silly all at once (she couldn't move much) and tied in very well with her new album, which is half Wicker Man, half Jungle Book and all about nationality. Here's one of my favourite songs with an autoharp and her acquired-taste beautiful voice (just like an instrument, it goes both creepily high and gothic low).
One of the first gigs I ever went to was Polly and John Parish touring a strange, brilliant album called Dance Hall at Louse Point. Last night, she played one of the songs from that tour and it immediately took me back to 1995 or 1996 and that state of constant teenage yearning. Yearning to grow up, yearning to go move away and yearning to be noticed by a certain boy (who I dated 10 years later, who broke my heart just like I was still 16). It's a rare talent who, even on an off night (the sound was wobbly, she seemed quiet and withdrawn) can still entrance you with their sound and words, and nail things you never knew needed nailing, like 'memories that grip me and pin me down'.
After years of sitting in a stupid niche as an angry, scary woman (as my friend says, 'she looks like she sleeps with a knife under her pillow'), PJ's finally being recognised by the mainstream and that's a wonderful thing. Whether she cares what they think or not is another matter.