Joan As Policewoman
She steps lightly towards the piano, a boho songstress clad in black leather jacket, scarf hanging from belt, and all offset by that gold belt buckle, the outsize letters reading J O A N. Putting the small coffee cup on top of the paino she begins to play and the Empire audience are rendered mute, awed by that voice, twisting turning, contorting to relay bittersweet tales, tales of thwarted desire and longing.
The silence is broken by an enthusiastic punter - "you're better than Madonna". Quite. Joan Wasser appreciates the sentiment. "Thank you", she laughs, dropping to her knees and raising her face to the heavens, acknowledging a prayer answered. "I've been waiting my whole life to hear that" And what a life it has been. Bringing her classical schooling to the world of rock, Wasser has been a member of Rufus Wainwright and Anthony & The Johnsons touring bands; played with everyone from the Scissor Sisters to Lou Reed and was reportedly the object of the late Jeff Buckley's affections.
It is a truly special performance. 'Real Life' is a tender caress, gently prompting us to "be reckless", to grasp what life and love has to offer, whilst 'My Gurl' is nostalgia charged and deeply affecting. The new material sees Wasser make the transition from the personal to the political. 'Aren't You Furious?' is a wholesale attack on the Bush administration while 'Happiness Is A Violator' sets its sights on Condoleezza Rice specifically.
Her drummer Ben and bassist Renee provide sterling support, precise yet unobtrusive. So good in fact that we're even prepared to forgive Renee her Lord of the Prance jig. And Wasser, she's a little charmer, encouraging our applause with cries of "that's what I'm talking about," and "Belfast, you're amazing", we've heard it a hundred times before, but when Wasser says it�
She is at her torch singer best for 'We Don't Own It', a sweetly purred tribute to the tragic minstrel, Elliott Smith. And, as an encore of Bowie's 'Sweet Thing' and touching 'Star of My Heart' reminds us, life is not only about loss, there is love too.