Joan Wasser is clearly very happy to be on stage at the Scala. She tells the audience so, repeatedly. It's a sell out crowd for her appearance as Joan as Policewoman, in the biggest headlining gig she's played so far in support of last year's album 'Real Life'.

Her voice has been described as "wondrous and moving" and compared with that of Dusty Springfield, which is not far off, as it happens. Although her songs are clearly influenced by artists such as PJ Harvey and Patti Smith, her voice transcends 'punk': as her Myspace page proclaims, “Beauty is the new punk rock”.

The first few songs are a mixture of styles, from the dreamy pop of 'The Ride' to the louder, brasher, 'Hard White Wall'. She begins on her own at the piano, joined after opener 'To Survive' by her bassist and drummer, and for the first few songs, she remains at the piano, only getting up and putting on a guitar for 'Feed the Light'.

She announces one song as being “about someone I was completely obsessed with”, to which someone in the crowd replies: “is it Christobel?” She smiles as another joker shouts out: “Is it Chris De Burgh?” She laughs. “Chris De Burgh is fine. I'm just not completely in love with him.” The song turns out to be 'Christobel', one of her better-known songs which is faster-paced than what's gone before.

There's more crowd interaction before the next number, as she sits down at the electric piano (which has the word “YES” picked out in gaffer tape across its lid). “This is about hating my hateable government.” As the crowd cheers, she adds: “Yes, it's so fun.” The simple rhythm accompaniment to 'R U Not Furious ?' consists of a clapped beat from the bassist, punctured by the occasional rim-shot from the drummer, but it gets more intense as the song goes on, with Joan singing “are you not furious?” and by the end the rhythm has descended into a cacophony of thrashing drums.

She remains at the piano for 'My Gurl', but the mood is much more sober, with phrasing that recalls Cole Porter, of all people, and after a while, Joan's voice even starts to take on the texture of Ella Fitzgerald. She's going to keep playing love songs, she says, remaining at the piano, as she runs through 'No Question' (“it's very new and I'm very nervous”), 'Start of My Heart' (“I'm no longer in love with this person but they do get a good song out of it”) and 'Real Life', which she tackles solo. She dedicates the final song, the stop-start 'We Don't Own It', to Elliott Smith.

The first encore, 'Happiness is a Violator', is a powerful drum-led tune with a call of “I have no choice” that Joan dedicates to Condoleeza Rice. Before launching into 'Endless Supply Of Poison', she informs the front rows of the audience that “I expect a moshpit” but the crowd are far too polite, and too rapt, to do anything like that, and the show finishes with 'To Survive', with Joan back at the piano, Cole Porter phrasing and Ella's voice back for the final flourish.












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