Joan as Police Woman and Benjamin Lazar Davis at Heaven
Clad in matching blue boiler suits, Joan as Police Woman and her band cut industrial yet stylish figures under the antique brickwork of Heaven’s arched roof. Tonight’s show comes with a special addition to the group in the form of Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Lazar Davis, with whom Connecticut-native Joan (real name Joan Wasser) collaborated on recent LP Let It Be You. A classic example of the musical chameleon, Wasser has embraced musical styles such as classical and grunge during a 25-year career, but this productive partnership imbues the set from its outset with the synth-driven electro-pop that provides that album’s theme. Pensively pretty opener Satellite stutters along on a glitchy melody, while Let It Be You’s title track soars above the lo-fi soundscape thanks to the way that Davis’s harmonies complement Wasser’s uniquely raw vocals.
Despite possessing both the equipment and personnel to offer variation (bandmates frequently swap positions, each displaying ease with the range of instruments and electronic gadgetry surrounding them), an almost singular tone remains in place. A brief interlude during which Joan is left alone on stage to display her piano bar torch singer chops on To Be Loved, and her delicate guitar work on the yearningly sweet Get Direct, offers some respite from the angular electronica, but when the others return, it’s very much “as you were”. With the poetry of the lyrics often lost in the mix thanks to Wasser’s signature breathy delivery, many songs lack a place in which an audience might get a foothold to elevate the atmosphere beyond that of an album listening party. While they certainly set a mood, without discernible hooks or memorable choruses, tracks like Violent Dove pass by without leaving too big an impression.
An unnamed but compelling new song, and an encore that sees Wasser take advantage of an unfeasibly long mic cable to lead her audience in their most determined dancing, ensures the evening ends in jubilant fashion, but a sense of missed opportunity remains hanging in the air.
Photos: Nick Bennett
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