Joan As Police Woman
St George’s Church, Brighton ★★★★★
‘THAT would not be a good idea,’ said Joan Wasser, declining the offer from the front row of an interval drink. The last time this writer saw indie-pop’s foremost pre-Raphaelite sensualist performing solo, she gave every sign of having had a nip at the cooking sherry, and it was a great deal of unwieldy fun. This time, she sipped a cup of herbal tea, moved with poise between a baby grand piano and a barely amplified Telecaster, and was straight-up sublime.
There was an involuntary ‘oof!’ noise, also from the front row, when she concluded a ravishing version of Forever And A Year. Whoever uttered it spoke for the crowd. It is one of her less visited numbers from The Deep Field, the 2011 album that remains the lushest and most rapturous iteration of a music distilled from 1970s soul, the more experimental end of the singer-songwriter movement, cool jazz, Wasser’s classical training, and her avant-punk inclinations. But that only emphasises the quality of the catalogue she has accumulated over 15 years.
Playing without a band is a great test of both an artist’s songs and their nerve. Most, in stripping away the sound, lay the songs bare. Wasser somehow made them seem fuller.
The summer dusk descending through the stained glass windows of this airy, white-walled church only added to that peculiar devotional quality in her music, which mingles light and dark in celebration of the human spirit rather than the divine.
Her sinuous, tantalising revision of Prince’s Kiss was a breathtaking case in point.
Countless acts have pondered love’s mysteries but few have surpassed Wasser in exploring its mystique.