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Arts and Entertainment

Joan As Policewoman @ The Hotel Cafe - 6/13/2007

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Wearing a slimfit, pin-striped pantsuit, and a giant, gold medallion, Joan Wasser, the prolific NYC singer-songwriter who performs as Joan As Police Woman, made a rare, solo, appearance last night at the Hotel Café in support of her new record Real Life, out now on indie-friendly label Cheap Lullaby Records. Switching and bewitching between piano and guitar, she cast all variety of soul-punk voodoo on the captivated crowd.

Her voice -- like Chrissie Hynde during a sensitive moment, like PJ Harvey when infuriated, like Joni Mitchell if Mitchell was a punk rocker -- was moving and exhilarating with barely audible, delicate tones and uninhibited powerhouse belting.

Amused by the partially-covered sign on stage that read DO NOT MOVE (PIANO) she confessed to having a psychological battle with the directive -- attempting at first to abide daintily, and then lashing out against the order with a wild and flailing defiance. “That’s just my personality,” she said laughing.

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Her soft spoken, free association, stage banter covered extensive pop-culture topics from Whitney & Bobby, to Erik Estrada, to tacos. And though Joan has been a touring member of Antony and The Johnsons and is deeply rooted in NYC art/music scene (contributing to studio work and live performances with Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Sparklehorse, Nick Cave, Scissor Sisters, Tanya Donelly, etc.), I think if you listened carefully you could hear her love for LA growing with each deep breath.

She played a large chunk from her new record -- a masterful effort as musically inventive as it is cleverly emotional -- full with hinky timings, complex lyrics, extraordinary phrasing, and incredible honesty.

“The Ride,” a sadly sweet, merry-go-round of a song, was potently hypnotic live, while “I Defy,” (with an opening that inexplicably sounds like Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen”) was a triumph even without the Antony-duet dynamic that you’ll find on the record. “Eternal Flame” was a beautiful sock to the gut and “We Don’t Own It,” a song written for Elliot Smith, showed up with evocative precision. She ended her set with the love song “Anyone” dedicated to the dedicated folks at Cheap Lullaby. Aww.