REVIEW: Joan as Police Woman
Joan as Police Woman @ The Metro Theatre 7 May 2019
Reviewed by Gavin Vance
Never gone into a gig knowing so little, only to come out loving SO MUCH!
Joan as Police Woman tonight at The Metro in Sydney was an absolute triumph, full of truth and tenderness, poignancy and rage. Joan as Police Woman is Joan Wasser. She is a phenomenal front woman, and together with her tight-as band, she is soul with just a touch of funk, with a dash of pop / punk too, reminiscent of The Motels or The Pretenders, and Blondie. Six studio albums in all since round about 2004, with Damned Devotion being the latest, and the reason for this tour. Joan plays lovely Lullabies for Life. And on a cold Autumn night in Sydney, the big crowd is transfixed, and finding all the warmth within them. First timers to Joan as a Police Woman live – like me – are being transported to new worlds where tight rhythms carry irresistible melodies, sweet poetry, and breathless voices, sometimes with falsetto three-part harmonies so pleasing that goose bumps jump straight up out onto flesh. (Her hard-core long-term fans are swaying like they know they’re about to be baptised again and saved).
And Joan scowls and glares and hard stares at us and into space. She feels her stuff. As intensely as Janis Joplin did, as deeply as Patti Smith. In the intro to What Was It Like, she shares a personal story, a conversation she had not too far back with her father. She’d gone to thank him for never judging her as she was growing up. His response to that became the chorus for the song: “He said – ‘I could never see what passing judgement on anyone else would ever do for me …’ Mine weren’t the only moist eyes in the theatre, I’m sure. And like a really well-trained actor, she drills down harder, keeping the warm emotions keep flowing out at us from the stage. We’re struck by the intense focus she gets from the men in her band. There’s not just undeniable talent there. There’s the greatest of respect too.
Every song’s an uplifting moment. Sparse and muscular. This is true craft. And in between we get cheeky insights into what they’ve been doing to entertain each other on the road. There’s a lot of laughter. And finally, the bassist’s Huey Lewis T-Shirt is called-out and acknowledged. It’s been bothering / amusing a few in the front row all night. Does it belie, or is it the reason for the rapturous, almost born-again grins that light up his face every time he loses himself in the smooth, smooth grooves that he plays? No, it’s just a shirt. And there’s no irony. To prove it, he rips out the bass line to Power of Love and sings a bar or two. More laughs.
Joan says we’re so lucky to live in Sydney, that it’s beautiful weather. She says we seem so free and happy, that: ‘It’s not at all like that back home in the states! We’re flailing and perishing and dying in Brooklyn!’ She tells us we should be grateful for what we have. Did I see a few folks puff out their chests a bit? I think I did. And Joan really seems to mean what she’s saying. She loves it here. We throw our warmth back with such energy that she just has to come out for an encore!
And here’s the highlight of the night – a cover of Prince’s Kiss that manages MUCH more simmering funk and sex than the original, and again, here come the falsetto three-part harmonies at the right time to bring it home!
We … want … MORE!