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JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN @ SOUND CONTROL, MANCHESTER 09/02/11 - REVIEW BY PHIL KING

This is the third time I’ve been lucky enough to witness a Joan As Police Woman show.  The first time was when she enthralled a large partisan crowd at Manchester’s Academy 2.  The second was at the uber-hip, though considerably smaller Deaf Institute, when she played a set composed almost entirely of covers.  And now tonight at another smallish venue, the recently opened Sound Control, where she delivers a set composed almost exclusively of tracks from her new record ‘The Deep Field’ though she brought out and polished a few older pieces from her jewel box much to the delight of the crowd. 

Clad in a black leather cat suit, Joan Wasser and her accomplices ease into the evening and from the outset she has everyone assembled in the palm of her hand. Helped on this tour by the smart and polished Tyler Wood on Keyboards and Parker Kindred on shuffling percussion, Wasser has chosen to ornament her songs on this tour with a collection of pianos and organs which conspire to create a very distinctive sound. It’s almost impossible not to be seduced by the expressively layered elegance of the peculiar instrumentation employed by Wasser and Wood; a fact, it should be said, that renders the audience completely spellbound for the whole of the performance.  Funnily enough, rather than  these interlacing keyboard textures drifting into the dreaded realms of prog rock, they exemplify and amplify the soulfulness of the tunes and puts one in the mind of Stevie Wonder circa 1973, which is a deft trick if one can pull it off and Wasser and her band do so admirably. 

On occasion Wasser straps on an electric guitar and knocks out a lusty riff creating a stark contrast to the gentler keyboards led passages of the set.  However the most precious commodity of the evening is undoubtedly Wasser’s voice, an incredibly malleable instrument that washes every note of the music with a watery melancholia.  Singing lyrics that are unashamedly romantic, though careful not to stray into the florid, she’s equally at home trilling a delicate naked harmony over the loveliest piano chords you’ll ever hear, or voicing an angry swell of emotion that almost reaches high up into the stars. After Wasser and her band bring this stunning set to a conclusion, she returns to deliver an almost overwhelming telling of ‘Human Condition’ from her new record.  It’s worth the price of admission alone.  She plays a further two before it’s over and it’s time to go home.

When I walk out of the door into the cool Manchester air, I’m surprised to see Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper giddily fingering a message in the dust that’s accumulated on the side Joan As Police Woman’s tour bus.  I don’t stop to see what she’s written, but if its ‘Manchester loves Joan As Police Woman’ then I whole heartedly agree.  

Review/photos by Phil King