Sunday, July 15, 2007

Police force

Joan As Police Woman, Leicester Y Theatre, 30th May

Well, this is all very recherche. An audience more than twice as big as that for when Bill Callahan popped by the same venue four weeks earlier - that's what comes of putting some posters up, see - are seated around tables with proper cloths and candles, as if it were a high class choral recital. Which, given the milieu Joan As Police Woman works in, might well be the case in a way.

Joan Wasser has a background, see. A one-time member of nearly crossover Boston outfit The Dambuilders, she was Jeff Buckley's partner when he drowned and went on to play violin for Lou Reed, who lent her to Antony and the Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright, who she still works alongside, and Elton John, who recommended her to the Scissor Sisters when they needed a string arranger for Ta-Dah. It's in her Joan As Police Woman state, usually a three piece but alone for this tour, that she gets to transpose her grandiose methods to indie melodramatic structures.

Helpfully, she's also a highly engaging banterer. With this being the last night of her tour, enabling her to marvel with knowledge of the changeable nature of cold weather and at having been to "this exciting new place called Newbury", as well as a couple of diversions at the detail that a clown performance was scheduled for the theatre the next day, musing on the idea of men in clown costumes riding the New York subway and what they must have been thinking about their life at that point. The flipside of such touring is that her voice seemed to be mildly suffering, the captivating, spectacular peaks and sussed troughs exhibited when I saw her at Summer Sundae last year not always reached, but still breathing life into songs that seem on record, if not flat, then certainly lacking some production nous. She's not afraid to change the songs from her album Real Life either, a more upbeat Eternal Flame and bluesy Christobel ("British people think this song is about Chris De Burgh") played as she switches from baby grand piano to guitar with ease, and apologising for changing the namecheck during the title track in case anyone had wanted the song for themselves. There's a couple of highly promising new songs too, one, To America, intended as a duet with Rufus and in lieu of his presence her attempting to take on his vocal style. The ovation at the end is well deserved for someone who after all through maverick talent befits the impromptu elegance of the setting.


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