Joan as Police Woman, Brighton, 21 June 2019

I was not going to do a review of this Joan as Police Woman gig as regular readers have probably read all they need to about our numerous audience experiences, most recently last year in Vienna. Indeed, I was not particularly excited about this “Joanthology” tour as it was billd as a solo set. Joan Wasser’s bands have, consistently, been excellent, worthy of critical review in their own right, and extraordinarily complementary to her vocals.

So convinced was I that it would be a disappointment, I did not attempt to write a set-list or get too close (the venue, a church, had unhelpful seating – we’ve never sat down at a JasPW gig before). Having said that, never before have we seen a grand piano on the set. Wasser’s keyboards are ordinarily electric/electronic and configured for standing only. So, all different. The audience was largely made up of Wasser devotees, and one get’s the impression that very quickly she felt at ease and amongst friends. I sense one needs to have that feeling when alone on stage. Indeed, she was conscious that there was part of the audience staring down on her from a balcony, prompting the comment after her first song, “I hope none of you people are piano teachers”.

So, Joanthology is Wasser’s self-curated “best of” album. A triple, with the third CD consisting of tracks taken from BBC sessions. We actually have yet to listen to these, having purchased the album a couple of weeks’ earlier. So, not much was new. Joanthology has a few new offerings. One of which is a song called “What a World”. Now having seen JasPW numerous times, this song is familiar. Though it turns out that Wasser performed this song for a few years before she decided it was largely unperformable. The absence of the song from the repertoire and its failure to appear on any of her albums did not pass by her most devoted followers who, apparently, badgered her to do something with the song. Or, as Wasser explained, to rework it into something that she could like.

Wasser was also drawn, disarmingly, to develop the story around “Real Life”. It is a love letter sent to a bloke she wanted to get to know better. The thing is, he was about 6000 miles away, so it was hardly ideal. Suffice to say, it did not quite work, but have a listen and pick out the lyrics that might have had an impact on the recipient.

Anecdotes aside, this is probably the most accomplished we have ever seen JasPW. Completely in control, at ease and beguiling the audience to a person. Whilst we did not have the best position in the church (churches have posts and generally lack raised seating or stages), it did not really matter. Wasser’s vocals just danced around her rearranged songs and curated set. She had to be on top form to pull this off. She was on top form.

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