Live Review: Joan As Police Woman (
November 5, 2009, 12:39 am
Filed under: Live Reviews | Tags:


Joan As Police Woman
Empire Music Hall
February 2009

Joan Wasser’s aura gets tacky between your fingers, it covers tables and chairs like petals and soon the floor is greasy underfoot. Such a heady flume of atmosphere encircles Belfast’s most striking and enchanted of venues that when it’s all over, the night air hits harder on re-entry to earth. And it’s all down to Wasser’s positively incandescent presence at the front of the room.

The whole thing with this woman, besides her uncommon beauty, the transfixing, troubled demeanour and the consistently under-estimated sophistication of her music, is how touching and even daunting an experience it is to be exposed to an artist not quite of this plain of existence, who isn’t just performing, but remembering. And sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.

With an onstage persona that is half ditzy moonbeam and half scuzzy lower-east side dilettante, her crystalline, masterfully-guided singing voice squeezes the retrograde torch songs until they stall and die. Her most affecting songs are the ones left hanging in uncertainty, with Joan on the verge of giving herself over to a love that terrifies or tentatively proclaiming a final and total submission to another and awaiting his answer.

Whether it be the solid-gold Banshee-soul of Hendrix cover ‘Fire’, the fanciful paean to Whitney Houston ‘Eternal Flame’, a spell for sexual slavery – ‘Take Me’, or the dreamy lassitude of the jazz -tinged ‘The Ride’, each offering speaks of a person followed by herself, falling victim to her own complexities, and always on the advent of true love.

In this way Joan As Police Woman is a female artist in the classic 20th century tradition, who like her spiritual forbearers Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Kate Bush, is comprised of equal parts resolve and vulnerability. She’s eccentric but so real and it’s easy to understand her ascendance as a gay icon.

As the pitifully lonely ‘To survive’ spikes, she reopens her eyes to reveal tears. It’s such a special moment that it looks almost stage managed. With such naked emotion beating down on us, the urge is to look away, if only you could. Compare her to her skeezy Brit counterparts and it’s difficult to be anything other than passionate for the true beauty that Joan Wasser is exporting this decade.

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: