I must admit that Joan as Police Woman is not someone I had come across before. I put that down to getting most of my new music from the TV, my ablution-accompanying radio in the bathroom being tuned to Radio 3 nowadays, and I don’t recall her being on Jools Holland’s Later. When I delved into her biography before writing this piece I feel that I should really have known who she was.
My knowledge of popular music between the mid 1950s and the turn of the century is pretty good so I assumed that Joan Wasser, to use her real name, was a relative newcomer. Wrong! Despite her deceptively young looks, she has been playing professionally since 1991 when she joined the band The Dambuilders, then The Black Beetle and appeared on the Mercury Prize-winning album I Am Bird Now as part of Anthony and the Johnsons. She has traded under the name of Joan as Police Woman since 2002, choosing the moniker in tribute to the 1970s American TV Series Police Woman starring Angie Dickinson. She has also worked in collaboration with artists such as Elton John, Lou Reed, Sheryl Crow, Scissor Sisters and many others, notably Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz on the track Simplicity. To illustrate the age gap, and hopefully mitigate my ignorance to some degree, she has worked with Rufus Wainwright, whose dad, Louden (the third) I saw at The Bitter End in New York in 2001 at their 40th Birthday Bash.
Sadly I was told that I was not allowed to take any photographs in the auditorium, which is fair enough as professional photographers pay for the privilege of doing this, which means that I will have to summon up my powers of description. Ms Wasser seems to be a bit of a chameleon in that she changes her look at each concert. I was provided with photographs taken at her recent gig in Newcastle where she could not have looked more different.
Her Leeds look, and that of her band, was very 70s with her wearing a tailored red suit with flared trousers and platform shoes and her hair was down and immaculately coiffed. She obviously knows that we are a bit more refined at Howard Assembly Room. Her band, comprising Eric Lane on keyboards and saxophone, his long hair and beard making him look as though he had been playing in a progrock band; Benjamin Lazar Davis, electric bass, seemingly fresh from a time warp soul session with Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes; and Parker Kindred on drums in sensible trousers and short-sleeve shirt, obviously moonlighting from his job as filing clerk at an accountancy firm.
No matter what they looked like their musicianship was excellent, as was that of the star on piano and guitar. The music was an eclectic mix of the aforementioned genres with dreamy passages, funky grooves and modern jazz added for good measure. Joan’s (I hope that she excuses the familiarity as we were not formally introduced) voice could rock but mainly stayed on the melodic side.
When she began her performance I thought that the 70s motif was going to continue throughout the evening as I was immediately put in mind of Dory Previn, but she soon moved on to exert her own personality and the set just got better.
Not being familiar with her work the songs were obviously new to me and I felt that some of them could have appealed more had I had a chance to hear them again. I will hit YouTube and put my theory to the test, not the most onerous task in the world.
The tour continues in the UK and on the Continent, please go to https://joanaspolicewoman.com/ for details. You might not be able to get to Exeter or London but, if you are due to pick up your new Ferrari from the factory on 30th August, she is at Modena, Italy.
For more presentations at Howard Assembly Room please go to https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/
All photographs provided by Howard Assembly Room