Gig review: Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazar Davis at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
There's been a lot of talk about the musical influence of Central African Republic Pygmies on Joan As Police Woman's collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis.
During this set, in support of their recently released album Let It Be You, it’s only really apparent on the rhythm section of the title track. A rounded, soulful electro-pop number that’s informed by Joan Wasser’s last solo album The Classic, it’s the strongest moment of their partnership alongside former single ‘Broke Me In Two’.
These aren’t the only tracks that reference her back catalogue, with set closer ‘Station’ harking back to Real Life. Initially powerful, it becomes overcomplicated as one by one her band adds layers of unsympathetic percussion and striated guitar.
This alt-pop experimentation underperforms on a handful of other tracks, with ‘Satellite’ swapping emotion for vaguely interesting glitchy electronics. While this is partly redeemed by Wasser’s strong voice, those on which Davis takes the lead, such as ’Overloaded’, descend into nondescript indie-pop.
Fortunately the set is balanced by enough material from Wasser’s solo discography to keep it interesting. The soulful ‘Holy City’ gets an ecstatic reception, and the funky bass-lines on ‘Feed The Light’ and ‘Save Me’ make them dance floor favourites.
Yet it’s when Davis and the two backing musicians leave Wasser to perform solo that she really makes an emotional impact. ‘We Don’t Own It’, backed by just an electric guitar, sees her return to her torch singer roots and ‘To Be Loved’, accompanied by a keyboard, finds power in simplicity.
These moments are strong reminders of Wasser’s undeniable talent and suggest that this collaboration is just a curious punctuation mark on her musical development.