I’ll preface this piece by stating what it is not, as such. Given we are now nearing a week past the event, this is not so much a review as it is a reflection. A reflection on the fact that, even despite the said timeframe, I’m still able to care enough about this performance to attach some words to it. Such is the power of Joan Wasser.
And so it begins. “I’m looking for the magic…” Joan sung, as she introduced her smoky vocal tones to a packed Factory Theatre crowd. The Factory Theatre itself has provided many a magic moment of the years; Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile, Imogen Michaelson are but some of the names who have provided definitive musical experiences on its threadbare stage, so Joan needn’t look much further than her surroundings to find it. Indeed, she also needn’t have looked much further than herself – from the moment her raspy groove filled the room, this was clearly going to be a performance of note.
Playing nicely off her two accompanying musicians, Joan quickly found a soulful swagger, intertwining with the backing gents to create some slightly unexpected Nu-Motown harmonies. There was something particularly confident about her ‘subtle soul’ – a younger Bettye Lavette (albeit in leather pants) is perhaps the most immediate comparison, yet with the restrained lyrical stylings of an Aimee Mann or Chan Marshall it was never anything less than contemporary. While largely a controlled and measured performer, she thankfully isn’t afraid to punctuate occasionally with a banshee wail, or brandish her guitar as a rock music weapon of choice (see: The Deep Field’s ‘Nervous’ and it’s declaration that she doesn’t “come with a manual”.)
Wasser used her set as an opportunity to indeed explore most of her new material, and it was a clever move: live, The Deep Field‘s songs are darker, moodier and more menacing, finding a spirit that was occasionally muted on the recordings. The night’s most potent moment came from this: ‘Forever and a Year’ (dedicated to a recently deceased tour manager) had the crowd enraptured with silence as it shimmered darkly in the air before slowly fading into the floorboards.
The most striking thing about this Joan As Police Woman performance was her ability to draw the crowd to her, using a mix of raw emotion and natural sensuality. You wanted to be close to her, knowing, however, that she would ultimately cause you more harm than good. It was that slight hint of danger that made her all the more compelling and the show, ultimately, another defining show in The Factory Theatre’s repertoire.
The Deep Field is out now and is recommended by Dark Cafe Daze.
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