Joan As Police Woman @ Komedia, Brighton 17.04.14

Cult indie doyen plays to rapturous reception in Brighton

Apr 17th, 2014 at Komedia, Brighton / By John Dineen
Joan As Police Woman @ Komedia, Brighton 17.04.14 Joan Wasser has a quite remarkably eclectic C.V. Aside from her solo work as Joan As Police Woman she was a member of the Dambuilders and has collaborated with such diverse figures as Lou Reed, Sparklehorse, Antony & the Johnsons and Rufus Wainwright. From afar she could seem like a hipster magpie, collecting endorsements from indie royalty. However, this eclecticism, mirrored by her virtuosity as a singer/songwriter/violinist/guitarist/keyboard player has garnered her a devoted following in her own right. Her inherent unpredictability made it hard to know what to expect as she rolled into Brighton in support of her fifth album; The Classic, which has been heralded as a change of direction.

Those who had familiarised themselves with the new record were rewarded with an uncharacteristically aggressive and funky opening as the band stormed through four new songs with the kind of energy that evoked memories of James Brown and the JB's. This was perhaps a defiant statement of confidence reflecting the retro/soul direction of the new album and was warmly welcomed with surprised enjoyment by the Brighton crowd.

However, Joan Wasser the emotive torch singer was still in attendance with exemplary and highly committed performances of fan favourites 'The Ride', 'Christobel' and 'The Magic' all receiving fond receptions. Even though these older songs were performed with an increased sense of energy and groove, they retained their sense of intimacy.

This is the essential triumph of Joan As Police Woman's current touring incarnation; gold lame attire, aggressively funky drummer, Door's style keyboard bass and a guitarist straight out of the seventies, yet songs as sincere and moving as any grooveless folksinger. You could say that she has morphed into a strange hybrid of Prince and Joni Mitchell. As she switched effortlessly from keyboards to violin to guitar it highlighted how rarely such effective musical proficiency can be married to such affecting performance.

A triumphant gig was topped off with a celebratory encore featuring new songs 'Shame', 'Your Song' and an astonishing performance of 'The Classic'. Performed acapella with perfect doo-wop harmonies, it was a moment of pop perfection that perfectly reflected the new album’s positive energy and proved that Joan As Police Woman can make you smile as easily as she can jerk a tear.

So, the new funkier Joan Wasser was welcomed with open arms in Brighton with her new sound more easily translating to the live arena than on record. An already eclectic and evolving artist continues to challenge her audience with a winning blend of art and artifice that is as refreshing as it is exciting.