Joan as Policewoman – St George’s Hall, Bristol

Wednesday 25th April, 2018

I had oscillated between going and not going to this gig for ages and I’m not at all sure why. Every Joan As Policewoman song I’ve heard played on 6 Music is brilliant. I love the venue. By the time I talked myself into saying yes to getting a ticket, it was almost too late. The only seat I could get was a restricted view one on the ground floor (not great for a short arse like me) but the acoustics are so good that I decided to go with it. I know St George’s as a classical, jazz and spoken word venue. This was to be my first contemporary gig there and I wasn’t at all sure how it would work. Was Joan too groovy for a seated gig? Was the usual audience there a bit staid for alt rock? Was I, as usual, over thinking everything?

It has been a tough few weeks. I’ve been unwell. Not sleeping. Tense. In need of some musical release.

As much as I’m getting older and find standing for hours trickier, the upside of standing gigs is that people tend to arrive earlier. Seated ones seem to attract people who aren’t interested in hearing the support acts, which is such a shame. The wooden floors and ushers torches didn’t help either, as they ferried people in during the songs. During classical concerts they make you wait outside between pieces and only let you enter during breaks. Should not the same courtesy and respect be extended to all musicians?

Fyfe Dangerfield did a good job in those circumstances. He played half a dozen songs, but required 3 instruments and as many costume changes. As much as I love an old joanna, I preferred the ones he played on guitar. Possibly because I could see him, rather than the back of his head covered in a blue towelling dressing gown. Eccentric and charismatic he was. Bit like a musical Yoda. If I saw he was playing locally I would go.

Joan’s band came out, looking way cooler in their plum satin jackets than I ever could. I was coveting one at the merch desk, but £75 on the day you quit your job, well it wouldn’t have been sensible.

The opening trio of songs were all from Damned Devotion, the latest album, and the ones I knew from BBC6 Music. This left the rest of the gig as an open learning experience for me, as my ears were new to every other track. Joan’s voice is every bit as brilliant live on record, almost too perfect at times. Jazz influenced, sharp as a tack and wonderfully understated, it filled the hall.

It did take me a while to relax into this gig, if I managed that at all. That was all me, not the music. It felt odd sat near the back, with the light and angles making it possible to be aware of most of the rest of the audience. I find it very hard to get lost into the music like that. I was really tired and perhaps not in the right frame of mind to let go. Towards the end I even considered leaving, something I never do.

There was so much to like and admire and enjoy. The politics of The Silence. The love of What Was It Like. The groove of Human Condition. The brilliance of the re-imagining of Kiss. The overall talent of each musician, led by Joan. I was simply too tired is the truth. Which is such a shame, because on another day, perhaps in another venue, I feel as if I would fall in love with Joan as Policewoman.

Sometimes the right music finds you and sometimes you aren’t ready for it when it arrives. Musical relationships are much like any other, subject to the whims and fancies of fate. Most of all though, they are about timing and circumstance. Stars align at times and you float, skimming the stars. Other times much like ships passing in the night you miss each other by the tiniest of fractions.

I’m not sure I enjoyed a contemporary gig at St George’s. It isn’t dark and intimate feeling like the Lantern. I couldn’t close myself into the music as a result. Or maybe I need to book earlier and spend more money on better seats next time. Joan as Policewoman deserved more from me as an audience member than being too tired to enjoy it. Excellent songwriting craft, exquisite vocals and great tunes deserve more. I’ll be better next time, Joan. I’ll be better.