Joan as Policewoman - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Joan as Policewoman - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Tall, statuesque and dressed all in shocking pink, Joan Wasser strides on stage, fixes us with a business-like stare and asks if we're ready for tonight's gig. Of course we are. Drawing mostly from her impressive new album, The Deep Field, the set showcases her left-turn into soul and funk, away from the darkness of her earlier work to a sound which reflects a more positive state of mind. With minimal accompaniment (just a drummer and keyboard player join her on stage), Wasser hops between electric piano and guitar, only once getting confused as to which one she should be playing. The sound doesn't seem lacking, however, thanks to Wasser's truly exceptional vocals. On funkier tracks like 'The Magic' she channels Billie Holiday and Sly Stone, while on slower, sadder numbers such 'Forever and a Year', she has the range and gushing sorrow of Jeff Buckley.

All this means it is impossible not to get caught up in the performance, even if at times the music slips further towards dinner jazz than is comfortable. Matters aren't helped by the icky, gurning, sex-face smirks her keyboard player repeatedly pulls, or by the constant stream of technical difficulties which draw out the gaps between songs. Thankfully, Wasser is a master of onstage banter, entertaining us with anecdotes, observations and audience interaction, and making the night more like a revue than a straight gig. In another life, she could have been a Sally Bowels style cabaret performer. Her charisma is undeniable, as is the force of emotion she brings to every song she sings tonight. Only 'Human Nature' really falls flat; stripped back to just Wasser at her piano, it loses its gentle, grooving, soulful charm and instead comes across as laboured and a little preachy. A shame, since this hymn to the simple joys of human interaction is one of the album's highlights.

That little blip aside, Wasser continues to be a great performer, overcoming tonight's setbacks thanks to the force of her talent and personality. Long may she continue to bring her joy to the stage.

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