“One thing I’ve learnt from this gig- Joan as Police Woman has some arseholes for fans”
Stepping boldly from beneath ‘Rufus Wainwrights shadow, former backing singer, Joan Wasser meanders onto the stage dressed in red leather, her quiet entrance giving no clue to the animated set she later produces from her back pocket. Known as singing with not only Rufus himself but also Jeff Buckley’s former band, Wasser and her trio of Brooklyn based musicians have a difficult act to follow, but which Joan pulls off flawlessly, crediting herself as a woman not to be reckoned with.
Obviously comfortable infront of a microphone and fuck loads of bunting, Joan addresses the audience like they’re old friends and honestly they probably are; being a female singer it would be easy to assume she is just another girl with a pretty voice and a talent for writing whimsical songs and it’s not only her songs that prove this wrong but also her diehard fans whom, with a few, she even went so far as to know the names of. She shouts over the start of a strong drumbeat “Leeds fans are insane, they have the most love for a venue ever. I keep getting messages of ‘when are you coming back to Brudenell Social Club? When are you coming back to Brudenell Social Club?’”
And it’s obvious to see why; most of the crowd seemed like they’d been waiting for her for years and consequently had been filling the time with alcohol.
Joan’s music has brilliant staying power and unlike most female singer/songwriters of this era, she’s loved by more than just a sea of teeny boppers in American apparel leggings. Her voice has a Janis Joplin sound to it, her tones are strong and yet earthy, so much so that certain notes took my breath away. Lifting her arms up to the ceiling and letting out song after song that appeared to simply burst out of her, her disposition doesn’t let the side down on this comparison. Joan has a confidence which is endearing rather than cocky, and her strong feminine character is evident through such lyrics as “I defy I love your way” which she delivers with a chilling resonance.
Following her fourth album, The Deep Field, which was released in late January, Joan had a wealth of material to share in such a small amount of time and she didn’t disappoint. With each song adding its own depth to the set, she had requests from all ends of the spectrum. Relatively new song “The Magic”, being the pinnacle to an energetic gig, when Joan’s voice reached a new high both metaphorically and physically, urging the audience to surge forwards and presenting us with the catchiest pop tune I’d heard in a long while.
Joan as Police Woman have been pushing through musical boundaries for years now. Her newest album encapsulates this and it was these songs that created a unity throughout the gig, with the entire crowd drawing upon one breath together. Joan’s music holds a light to her Stevie Wonder influences and like him, she manages to create music with the ability to both move and uplift the listener without drawing them into a state of depression. Her soulful voice is in constant contrast within each song, one moment reminiscent of a vintage era, the next pushing through with aggression.
Honestly, this gig space was never going to be filled with hipster teenage girls – Joans sound is too softly created for that, drawing on the comparison “an indie Adele” and making her essentially great fodder for leering middle-aged men. Yet it is this quality that is so endearing to others. Her music doesn’t need to be cutting edge, it’s beautiful and resonates out of her effortlessly, meaning that Joan as policewoman is truly a band that’s all about the music, the audience and nothing else.
“who wants to see her playsuit fall down?”
-Middle aged man quote
Words by Sophie Stones