Joan Wasser, AKA Joan As Police Woman, and her touring band hit the stage around 9pm. The band, from Brooklyn, New York, provided a wonderful, at times hauntingly beautiful and very entertaining night.

Joan Wasser first came to this scribe’s attention as part the the underrated nineties band The Dambuilders, in which she played violin. The Dambuilders toured here in the mid nineties supporting Jeff Buckley on his second Australian tour.

After the untimely passing of Buckley, Wasser became disillusioned with music generally. Joan As Police Woman has been very much about her finding her inspiration and muse once again as far as music is concerned. In interviews, she has stated that working with Antony Hegarty as part of Antony And The Johnsons very much reignited her love and passion for music.

Tonight’s set covered material from all three of her albums, 2006’s Real Life, 2008’s To Survive and her recently released  The Deep Field. The latest album marks something of a departure for Wasser.

Her previous two albums lyrically looked at quite dark themes and issues. The Deep Field couldn’t be more different. The music on the latest album is very much illustrative of an artist embracing life and exploring that via their art. That sense of positivity and joy was never more evident than in tonight’s set. The track “Say Yes” illustrated this point beautifully. What is so admirable about Wasser is that, although there is darkness lyrically in her music, she never once comes off as self-pitying or depressing in her presentation in either a performance or musical level. This is to be truly admired.

Wasser has a wonderful singing voice that was put to full use tonight. She can go from a whisper to a scream in a heartbeat, but has a beautiful sense of control at the same time. In interviews, she has professed her love of 70s soul music. That sense of influence, while never derivative, was definitely there in her vocal style and approach.

Backed only by drums and a keyboard player, Wasser, on keyboard and guitar, very much made the stage and venue her own. It is heartening to see someone like Wasser forging their own sense of musical identity in a world full of reality show clones. In that way, she is reminiscent of the likes of Regina Spektor and Aimee Mann. The very respectful crowd utterly adored her
Musical highlights of the night included wonderfully stripped down versions of “The Magic” and “Nervous” off the latest album. For this scribe, the utterly haunting version of “Human Condition” as part of her encore was a highpoint. It was simply a wonderful night.

– Neil Evans

Photo by Carbie Warbie