sat 19/10/2019

Joan as Police Woman, Folkestone Quarterhouse review - a living legend excels | reviews, news & interviews

Joan as Police Woman, Folkestone Quarterhouse review - a living legend excels

Joan as Police Woman, Folkestone Quarterhouse review - a living legend excels

The joy of Joan continues to escalate as she bucks all trends and transfixes her audience

© Ce Veronesi

This woman is a phenomenon. I’m not the first to write that and I won’t be the last. Yet the vast majority of the population won’t have heard of her. She’s the muso’s muso (BBC Six Music couldn’t lay any more praise at her door) and maybe the crazy name is a bit off-putting. But why isn’t she recognised as she should be? 

Day 16 on the Joanthology world tour finds Joan as Policewoman in arty Folkestone. Or Folk Stone as she laughingly admits she was pronouncing it until recently – "doesn’t that sound cool?". The eponymous three-CD album covers the first 15 years of her career and the capacity audience is reverential, a hush descending before the lights drop. And then, here she is, rocking up in a striped lamé jumpsuit and huge gold boots.

It’s an acoustic set; piano, guitar and analogue drum machine. She starts slowly on the piano with To Be Lonely, Wonderful and Tell Me, without speaking a word. Her extraordinary voice comes from another time, somehow, with hints of Dusty and Carol King. It was born out of tragedy. Wasser’s losses have been well-documented, the most notable ones being – musically – the death of her boyfriend Jeff Buckley, and her friend Elliot Smith. The pain of losing Buckley made her put down the violin she had studied at Boston University and begin to use her voice. But I’m starting half-way through.

Rather than fading with age, her songwriting skills seem to be burgeoningEx-Antony and the Johnson violinist, Joan "came out" as a solo artist by leaving the band after Rufus Wainwright begged her to tour with him (she credits him with teaching her all she knows about singing). She describes herself as a soul singer and to categorise her as a mere singer-songwriter seems woefully inadequate. She weaves a mysterious and magical path with every tune, her lyricism always managing to put a new spin on matters of the heart achieving cliché-free perfection. And she is gifted in her delivery, building and building in force and tempo until she manages to coax us reserved Brits into accompanying her on Human Condition.

If her career path has been unusual, she should rejoice in the fact that she bucks the inevitable trend for audiences wanting to "hear the old stuff". Her newer songs – largely from last year’s tour de force album, Damned Devotion, are even more warmly received than the old. Rather than fading with age, her songwriting skills seem to be burgeoning. Lucky Joan.

Her covers are another delicious confection. We’re treated to her exceptional take on Kiss (who’d have thought Prince could be "out-filthed"?) and a stunning rendition of Blur’s Out of Time segueing into her own early single, Christobel

The band name comes from Angie Dickinson’s Seventies cop show and it’s pertinent because as she performs she almost shape-shifts, reminding me of all of those ballsy American women back then – Kate Jackson, Marilu Henner and even Rhoda. She makes you feel as if you’re a co-conspirator, that she’s letting you into her secrets. Love is her muse. She’s still on the hunt, thank god, ("what does happily ever after mean, anyway?").

Did I mention the voice? Indescribable, perhaps. My best shot is this: like expensive deep-pile velvet of an excellent vintage. Spellbinding. Luckily for you, she’s added more dates to this tour. You should go. It’s one to tell the grandchildren about.

@kathrynsreilly

Her extraordinary voice comes from another time, somehow

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.