Joan Wasser has a habit of reinventing herself. From serving time in numerous bands, at hand when Anthony and the Johnson’s won the Mercury Music Prize, she morphed through various genres until landing at the somewhat oddly monikered Joan as Police Woman.
Under this guise Wasser has released a number of predominantly guitar-based albums, and whilst mainstream success may continue to unjustly elude, it has provided her with a strong and loyal following. For this evening at Leeds College of Music, Wasser morphs again, into a one-person show, accompanied only by a piano, a guitar and a 1973 repetitive rhythm generator.
‘Get out whilst you can’ is Wasser’s strong advice when she fires the antique equipment up for the second time.
A low-key opening of Wasser peering through the side door before walking out, wordless, and straight into To Be Lonely, Wonderful and Warning Bell. The venue’s acoustics working overtime containing a stunningly powerful vocalist.
When she does finally break her silence, it’s to recount the story of Wasser and her brother buying The Who’s Live at Leeds T-shirts when she was 10, not even knowing that Leeds is a place but when she did, assuming it was probably the coolest place on the planet, given her new attire. A supposition confirmed as the audience held perfect time singing along to Human Condition.
A reoccurring theme of Wasser’s dialogue was to comment on the silence, so used is she to a more raucous affair. But this was an evening that commanded silence, rapture, spellbound in the vocal range and power married bound perfectly with a finely-honed craft of song writing. No more so than on Christobel, the applause volume palpably increasing at its conclusion, such was the impact.
The main set concluded with three more songs on the guitar, including an astounding reworking of Prince’s Kiss, an evening of songs that sounded like they’d always been written for the piano and guitar backing track, rather than the different styles that adorn Wasser’s albums.
Joan as Police Woman returned for two more tracks before causing severe congestion in the foyer as fans clamoured to meet the singer, some clearly fulfilling a lifetime’s desire by their reaction. This was a set of love songs, of soaring songs, of cool songs, of not so cool but horribly infectious 46 year old drum beats, all coming together beautifully throughout a very special evening.