Joan As Police Woman / Andrew Bird

Shepherds Bush Empire, London on Wed 11th Jul 2007

The disappointment that the support act is not Bat for Lashes as listed in one of the freebie London papers is quickly dissipated as soon as Andrew Bird starts playing. He’s a solo act and evidently extremely accomplished, with ten albums in his back-catalogue, and is known for singing and whistling whilst playing violin.

Despite being on stage alone, there is enough instrumentation for some elaborate and strangely alluring compositions. Andrew alternates between plucking and playing the violin, then the guitar and sometimes a glockenspiel. These sounds are looped to create layers for the backing track and he adds perfectly in tune whistling and also sings with a voice which swoops and warbles reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. The lyrics sound complicated and interesting – the opening number ‘Sovay’ is an anti-war song which mentions the classical ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, a piece which was allegedly played to troops heading into battle. It’s Andrew’s birthday today so he finishes with the ‘Happy Birthday Song’ dedicated to himself.

Joan As Police Woman aka Joan Wasser from Brooklyn looks completely different each time I see her, though always very striking. Tonight she has the mop of brunette hair displayed on her album cover and is wearing a sparkly all-in-one which she calls her “MC Hammer outfit”. A measure of her attractiveness and appeal, she gets heckled by shouts of “marry me” from both men and women. Joan is another accomplished multi-instrumentalist and, as well as being one of Antony’s Johnsons for years and performing with Rufus Wainwright, was in The Dambuilders, Those Bastard Souls and Black Beetle. On top of this impressive CV, she has an awe-inspiring voice – crystal clear, soulful, slightly country-tinged with an enviable purity of tone and ability to caress softly and also reach impressive and powerful heights.

Joan muses about the last time she played at this venue as support to Rufus Wainwright – her set was ruined by a large proportion of the audience talking throughout which, she confessed, had her close to tears. Tonight is in complete contrast with people shushing each other during the quieter numbers. Joan is accompanied by Ben Perowsky and Rainy Orteca, the drummer and bassist who played on her solo debut album ‘Real Life’ which is being showcased tonight in its entirety.

Joan plays the piano for the first few numbers: ‘Flushed Chest’ which she wrote about Jeff Buckley who she was romantically linked with, the warmly greeted ‘The Ride’, and the soft ballad ‘Feed the Light’, and then swaps to guitar for the more up-tempo ‘Christobel’ which was released as a single and got some airplay in the UK last year. She refuses to be drawn on who Christobel is although she does say that some people had misheard and wondered why she’d released a love song for Chris de Burgh. She follows this with a new song, the raunchy ‘Hard White Wall’.

Joan dedicates ‘We Don’t Own It’ to Elliott Smith who she wrote the song for, and then sits at the piano to perform a few “love songs”, including ‘Real Life’, the album title track which receives cheers of recognition.

‘Are You Not Furious?’ driven by handclaps from the bassist, Joan explains is about the US government, of which she is understandably ashamed. On ‘I Defy’ her drummer sings the part that Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons, sung on the album version - his vocals are in a similar style and almost as sweet. The main set finishes with an angry ‘Happiness is a Violator’ which is about Condoleeza Rice.

For the encore Joan returns to the piano to play ‘To Survive’, a moving song for her mum who was obsessed with England, and finishes with a beautiful solo guitar version of ‘Take Me’.

After the Latitude Festival, Joan’s tour continues through Italy and America. UK fans can catch her at the End of the Road Festival, held in Dorset, in September.

Set List:

Flushed Chest
The Ride
Save Me
Feed the Light
Hard White Wall
We Don’t Own It
No Questions
Start of My Heart
Real Life
Are You Not Furious?
My Gurl
I Defy
Eternal Flame
Happiness is a Violator

To Survive
Take Me

article by: Helen O'Sullivan

published: 16/07/2007 10:13


sorry, we currently have no gigs listed for this act.