Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Joan Wasser brought her very particular brand of soulful music to a quiet corner of Brighton as she neared the end of the current tour. In support of her latest album release, 'Damned Devotion', earlier this year, Joan has been as far afield as Istanbul and as close to home as Brooklyn. Tonight, nestled among well kept rows of Mews and a few roads back from the hustle and bustle of busy Brighton life, Joan as Police Woman entertained all before her in the near two hundred year old venue of The Old Market (TOM).
Fyfe Dangerfield, of The Guillemots, stepped up on stage prior to Joan and blew a lot of the audience away with his solo performance. "You're amazing" came the shout out from the crowd as he flitted between piano, guitar and what looked like a bass ukulele. As he changed instruments, he also had various, low budget, costume changes, "Like Katy Perry without the money", he quipped. There were a couple of dressing gowns (one a very impressive Marvel superheroes number), some silk scarfs and a very fetching pair of huge Gorilla head slippers. He played out a stunning rendition of 'Falling Out Of Reach' on the uke and a very in character take on 'Outside'. The acoustics suited his style and his voice, although he did confess that the seaside had rendered him incapable of talking properly.
Joan As Police Woman wasn't far behind Fyfe. She and her band looked resplendent as they took to the stage in their matching silk blouson jackets. Like a latter day set of Pink Ladies but with only one (leading) lady. Joan was in fine voice and her band, aside from one small hiccup later on, were as tight as they come. They started out with a perfectly pitched take on the opening track from her latest album. 'Wonderful' sounded stripped back, clear and crisp as Joan's soulful vocal resonated around the hall. One song and she'd already captured the audience. 'Warning Bell' and the incredibly infectious, more upbeat, 'Tell Me', sealed the opening trio of Damned Devotion tracks before a throw back to her first solo album, 'Real Life', with a take on 'Eternal Flame'.
The sold out show was an immersive experience and the symbiosis of the stage performance and its undoubted appreciation was clearly evident. "Seeing Joan is like a tonic" someone said to their partner. Joan too though was clearly enjoying herself as she expressed her thanks to the audience. "Brighton this is your fault, it's overwhelming for me, really." she said. There was a brief pause as Joan took a moment to remember, with great and amusing affection, her sadly deceased Dad; how he'd spent hours building Heath Sets including TVs and other electronic equipment for use around the house and the joy in eventually being able to use them.
Joan gave a brilliant, stirring, rendition of Damned Devotion ("Has anybody got Apple music? Laughter's not a good sign; there's a video for it (DD) on Apple Music. You can get it for free in a week") and an equally emotive 'Human Condition'. Her voice and delivery throughout the night were outstanding but she also took time out to acknowledge the band who most certainly enhanced the evening's performance with their artistry and musicianship. The one false start in the gig came towards the end of the main set but only through genuine amusement, having told an anecdote about a guy from the mid-west who said, "Joan, you know when you talk about the relationship... Then it's over?". "I don't think he even realised this song was about him" Joan reminisced before breaking into a fine version of the harmonic and melodious, 'Talk About It Later'.
Damned Devotion gave rise to the final trio of songs, prior to the encore, and showcased just what a fantastic, cohesive and creative album it is. 'Silly Me' headed up an impassioned and atmospheric, 'I Don't Mind', with the wonderfully phrased line, "I learned to map lines but I can't trust myself to lie, I blame bad design" before a very spirited, fully loaded take on 'The Silence'; "for the obnoxious times that we live in."
Joan returned to close out the night with a truly fantastic, extended take on one of her biggest tracks, 'The Magic'. The soulful, at times jazzy, rendition was a wonderfully worked first encore. Prince provided the material for the second as Joan reworked his classic hit, 'Kiss' to the obvious delight of the enthralled audience. Joan herself confessed it was her favourite gig ever, thanked the venue, the crowd, the band and Fyfe and rounded off the night with a theatrical group bow.
TOM had provided a great venue but Joan As Police Woman saw to it that it was an extraordinary night with a superlative performance, evidently enjoyed by the sold out crowd that had come to see her.