- Thu, 2008-07-10 10:30
Joan as Policewoman live @ The Borderline, London 30/06/2007
Joan Wasser has squeezed an extra London date into her European tour and in turn her unusual audience have packed themselves into the blue light that is The Borderline, a claustrophobic, basement bar in Central London. Having left her band behind in Italy, tonight it’s just Joan. With her piano, guitar and her sublime voice to keep her company, they are not really missed.
She attracts a diverse crowd; a testimony to her unique and broad-ranged songwriting. Tonight there are young and funky musos, a smattering of stalkers at the front and lots of older people. Lots of beards, fuzzy grey hair and balding hair. Men with man bags strapped across their chests and fat wedding bands.
Wasser opens the show with Honour My Wishes from the new album. She stands at her piano, head held back in a pained expression and her voice glides effortlessly into the room. On through To Be Loved and Flushed Chest and still the audience have not dared take even a breath, less it break the silence. It’s quite a relief when she misses a high note, saying “fuck it, let’s do that again” and the crowd gives itself permission to laugh.
With her Greek goddess looks and an attitude that takes no prisoners, Wasser is way, way too cool for school. She captivates and commands this crowd. She loves them but doesn’t spoil them. Such is her seductive manner, she eases them out of their pin-drop reverence with such confidence that by the end of the evening there is open banter about cock and circumcision. There’s no thought of indulging the audience’s sensitivities “This song is about doing it up against a wall” she states, matter of fact. She vents about George Bush and gay marriage and by now the crowd are bold enough to start joining in. Someone tells her how great the last song was, to which she replies “Thank you. The watch going off was the best part”.
As well as the new album, there’s plenty from her second, critically adored release Real Life. She gives the crowd all the treats they want: The Ride, the deep, dark and dirty Cristobel and finishes the night with the soaring Real Life. And not many could pull off a cover of Hendrix’s Fire like she does. It’s Joan as Catwoman; sinister and erotic: “Move over Rover, let Joanie take over. You know what I’m talking about.” She just has the perfect scowl for that song.
It’s a really stripped down show. Seeing Wasser perform solo you realise how so many of her songs are actually structured around really, really simple piano. There’s also more room for that voice tonight, although loud, strong vocal moments are few and far between. It’s gentler than that. In fact, it’s the ‘barely there-ness’ of some of the notes which shows her voice off better.
The show has been one of those cramped affairs where, unless you’re right at the front, your view is basically the back of people’s heads with flashes of the singer’s hair, or maybe a guitar neck from time to time. I’m reminded of a relative of mine saying she used to take a cushion to gigs (ok, it was the 70s), lie down at the back and just listen. And Wasser’s voice is so wonderful tonight I’d be happy to do just that.
Review by Sacha Whitmarsh