Joan Rocks This Boat (and Other Stories)….

17 Feb

Formerly of The Dambuilders, and often with Antony and the Johnsons; Joan Wasser is classically-trained in violin and piano. As she prowls on to the stage adorned in nothing but a leather cat-suit (meow) slashed at the back to reveal ribs and skin, you wouldn’t necessarily equate her former upbringing with her on-stage repertoire. But who said that identity had to make absolute and linear sense? Life is full of contradiction.

And that is definitely no bad thing.

Being a bad girl doesn’t come naturally – but behind every explosive musician is a reason. You don’t have to look far past the lustrous, untethered, charcoal-locks, to see that Joan has reason.

Her new album, The Deep Field, is number three out of her creations so far, under her fancy-dress inspired NYPD officer outfit, Joan As Police Woman. Flash and The Magic seemed to be core favourites from the bobbing boat’s crowd on Bristol’s Thekla. Flash seeped like trickling, velvety Guinness over lips and into bodies – and, too, bulged with steely iron. That’s where Joan truly is her own. A schizoid performance of both light and dark – concrete and abstract. At times, her voice would resonate with the purity likened to the late Jeff Buckley. Sometimes, in Chemmie, it would morph into the sister-tones of Beth Gibbons, Gemma Hayes and at times, the gutsy, chaotic mish of Mogwai.

Synths at the ready, keyboards plugged in – this three-piece ensemble are a tight unit. Catching frequent camaraderie between Joan and Tyler (on synth machine and vocals) – that knowing look; makes her genuine and professional style all the more transparent. Heavily responsive to her audience, a mutual ‘raaaarrrrr’ evolves – unsure of its pirate or tiger undertones, Joan joins in. The energy of this night really is electric, and tuning her guitar, she chats and shares her love of Prince and refers to him affectionately as a ‘psychedelic hologram’ (make of that what you will) – and makes overt references to the Church of Al Green.

Unapologetic. Uncompromising. Doing her thing.

Furious hovers above dead-air, breaking through until all but none are mesmerised – in a trance, by the sheer truth. Exposed to every word, every thought, observation and hope. Her lyrics speak of life, death and the bits that aren’t so finite – the moments that reach into another realm – the intangible. This is the woman who has done Britney a massive favour in reinterpreting her hit-song Overprotected. Boring she is not. Safe is for later. Now is all that matters – and it seems that Bristol’s crowd managed to fulfil some of Joan’s dreams that night (she’s a charmer).

In all seriousness, this music has erupted out of life. Life is all we have. If not here, if not now, what do we have? She’s taking life for all it’s worth.

Joan As Police Woman continues her European tour throughout February and March 2011.


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