Joan As Police Woman + James Vincent McMorrow @ Birmingham Glee Club, 7th February 2011

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Tonight it’s a small and intimate gig to see Joan Wasser AKA Joan as Policewoman at Birmingham Glee Club. I receive a very warm (missing you already) welcome as I arrive and another really pleasant and helpful person upstairs to show me where the free seats are (they’ve turned the light down earlier – it’s pretty dark in here and warm and cosy!). Brownie points on the old ‘customer care’ to The Glee! The audience tonight is seated and polite – it’s nearly sold out, and unlike other reviews I’ve seen, there wasn’t any talking over the support or the main act.

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Support tonight is in the form of new talent converted-rocker-now-folk-singer /songwriter Irishman James Vincent McMorrow. Currently doing a mini tour of the UK (he’d played the Barbican the night before, Manchester following this gig) ahead of the release of his debut album, ‘Early In The Morning’. When he speaks his voice is tiny. Singing, he has a high, soulful voice, quite pretty, just him and an acoustic guitar. He is deep and introspective – his songs cover “the darker, less spoken about aspects of life, solitude and disillusionment…” If you feel like a reflection on life, he’ll be back at the Glee on Friday 4th March 2011.

Quick catchup with tonight’s Brum Live photographer Ken Harrison, then it’s down to the main act – New York’s Joan as Police Woman. She arrives on the stage in a silver, bowie-trousered catsuit (first time she’s worn it to play live; later in the set she’s concerned it may come off!) joined by keyboardist Tyler and Barker on drums.

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This set is to showcase her new album ‘The Deep Field’, an eclectic mix of tracks. Since assuming her Joan as Police Woman moniker in 2002 (a reference to the 70’s cop show) Joan has toured and collaborated with Rufus Wainwright, Anthony and the Johnsons, Lou Reed, Sheryl Crow, Sparklehorse, Dave Gahan, Elton John and the Scissor Sisters. You can see where she has been inspired and where she has inspired them.

“The Action Man’ is quite bluesy, “The Magic” akin to the Scissor Sisters. She swaps between keyboards and guitar and as a three-piece, the band can certainly get on down and boogie and jam.
“Hard White Wall” from her previous album is made up of melodic swirls. “Flash” starts off sounding similar to Hazel O’Connors “Will You?” winding up as it goes along. Tyler and Barker “sing like angels” – complimenting her in a tight and professional performance. “This” she says, “ is our sixth show, sixth time live. Though we’ve obviously rehearsed.” She’s pleasantly happy to chat between songs and clearly likes playing Birmingham’s Glee.

She tells the tale of how she was on Radio about to perform the intimate and truly personal song “Forever and a Year” live. Asked by the DJ, how she could perform such an intimate song live without getting upset, she shrugged it of, denying any problem, only to blart halfway through. “Told you so” came the DJ. “Dick.” And it is indeed a powerful ballad.

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Joan as Police Woman is a recipe of a snippet of Scissor Sisters with a dash of Sgt Pepper’s Beatles, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, a sprinkling of Dylan, dusted with Anthony & the Johnsons. She’s pretty unique and is good fun. An engaging hour and a half set, in a friendly and intimate environment. I suspect she’ll be back at the Glee soon – well worth a night out for less than £15.

Set list included: The Action Man, The Magic, Chemmie, Hard White Wall, Run for Love, Flash, Forever and a Year.

Review – Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – Ken Harrison

James Vincent McMorrow
Early In the Morning (due for release 7 March 2011)

Joan as Police Woman
Real Life (2006)
To Survive (2008)
Cover (2009)
The Deep Field (2011)

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