Gig Review by Andrew Lindsay with Photography by Tony Butterworth

Joan as Police Woman

Joan Wasser’s post show musings on Facebook: “Holmfirth! The Picturedrome…your gorgeous town, stellar crowd and theater ceiling are magic. Thank you. Who knew?”

Not enough people know about Joan As Police Woman, that is for sure. A small crowd – unusually seated – of around a couple of hundred are gathered to hear Joan (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar and violin), Matt Whyte (guitar), Eric Lane (keyboards) and Parker Kindred (drums). The band’s name, by the way, is inspired by the 1970s American TV show Police Woman which starred a similarly tough and sassy female lead.

Joan as Police Woman

Now based in Brooklyn, Joan is here to promote her fifth album…the rhythm and soul flavoured The Classic. Gigging hard these days (they played Leeds just three months ago) they are slowly building a following in Europe.

The show opens with four numbers from the new album. ‘What Would You Do’ is a strong and engaging start made special by the contrasting coda. Sadly the brass which enriched the recorded version is absent doubtless due to the economics of touring.

Joan as Police Woman

‘Holy City’ is jaunty and great fun – a touch of Motown and suggestive of Texas’s White On Blonde period. A big smile crosses Joan’s face as the drums pick up the beat. She is clearly chuffed that arms are raised in the audience at exactly the right moments.

For ‘Good Together’ Joan leaves her keyboards and stands centre stage tuning her guitar (no guitar techs in sight). Switching to her sparkly gold violin and then back again the song evolves into a long noisy climax with Joan riffing relentlessly.

Joan as Police Woman

At this point Joan expresses her astonishment with the venue. “I’ve never played anywhere like this before…keep this place secret. Coming down here is crazy. Where do you live?!!”. She genuinely likes the place but sails close to the wind with some Yorkshire tykes when she implies that it might be a tad remote. Recovering her ground she breaks into ‘The Ride’ taken from her superb 2006 debut: Real Life. It is a vocal treat. The next few numbers do not quite hit the preceding heights and do little to convert the merely curious in the crowd. It is as if the set list is geared toward larger venues or outdoor festivals. ‘Chemmie’ is heavy hitting and the volume is turned up as they tear into ‘Hard White Wall’. It is memorable for its passion.

Joan as Police Woman

The best is saved to last with three thrilling performances from the new album: ‘Shame’ – a retro soul original (with echoes of Shirley & Co’s dance floor classic) which gets the audience a rocking and a rolling. ‘The Classic’ – a glorious doo-wop tune sung acapella by all four band members at front of stage is a joy. And finally – Joan left alone on stage – to deliver the self-penned: ‘Your Song’.  Accompanying herself on piano she brings a raw emotion and a tender intimacy to the evening. You are persuaded that she is singing just to you. When I hear you sing, I want to sing too.

Joan as Police Woman

The ninety minute show draws heavily on the latest album (two thirds of the songs performed are taken from it). It is a fine album and so not surprisingly spawns an enjoyable evening with some great music and a terrific finale.

Quite coincidentally while writing this review Desert Island Discs was playing on the radio. The castaway was Elbow’s Guy Garvey and one of his eight picks was Joan’s ‘Real Life’:

‘It’s true what they say about me
That I’m out of my mind but I think that you like it
So take the chance
Be reckless with me’

If you’ve not heard her before be reckless and check out this session recorded for Marc Riley’s show on BBC Radio 6 Music. Unplugged is how I will remember her best.

Joan as Police WomanJoan as Police Woman

Setlist: What Would You Do; Holy City; Good Together; Get Direct; The Ride; Stay; New Year’s Day; Hard White Wall; Christobel; Chemmie; I Defy; The Magic; Shame; The Classic; Your Song.

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