Joan As Police Woman
As a venue, the Factory Theatre often lacks warmth and atmosphere but on this night Joan As Police Woman transformed it into a dreamy basement cabaret bar. There was no support act due to her playing two sets – another tip of the hat to the jazz bar scenario. It also gave the fans a chance to check out the fully laden merch desk between sets.
On a dimly-lit stage wreathed in smoke sat an upright piano, an electric guitar, amplifier, and a Roland Rhythm Arranger drum machine. Joan Wasser, resplendent in a disco-era jumpsuit, took a long, deep breath before easing into a gorgeous rendition of ‘To Be Lonely’. The reverence of the attentive audience was quickly broken with Wasser good-naturedly asking for the air-conditioning to be turned off as she shivered, stretched her hands and even dropped to the floor for some press-ups. A few songs later she took up an audience member’s offer to lend her jacket.
It was clear that Wasser was in a playful and irreverent mood, exchanging banter with the audience before switching her attention back to her emotive jazz-tinged deep soul, R&B and folk inflected songs. Pretty much all the songs she played came from her recent anthology release Joanthology which cherry picks the highlights of the last decade of her solo career.
What quickly became evident from watching and listening to Wasser perform her songs, was the way she commands and steers the timing of, and space within her music. Sparse piano chords settled in unusual places, augmented by sweet melodic runs of notes. All the while her voice drifted and soared above the music, pushing and pulling via simple incantations one minute and delicate and intricate acrobatic flurries the next. Her more rhythmically dependent songs were given groove and depth via the drum machine and on her cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’ she took the song further into coy and sensual territory. Other highlights included ‘Human Condition’, ‘Tell Me’, audience favourite ‘The Magic’ and the gentle ache of ‘The Ride’.
Joan As Police Woman has visited Australia a number of times now but this felt like the most relaxed, intimate and consummate show we’ve seen from her.