Oran Mor, Glasgow
Oran Mor's basement gig venue is always full of them. Men of a certain age, tight-lipped, impassively raising a pint to their lips, their expression unchanging. It doesn't matter who or what's on stage. The pints raise and lower at the same rate. The gaze never wavers.
A few months ago they were there at a Pokey LaFarge gig. More up tempo jazz-blues-dance-ragtime you'd be hard pushed to find. It is impossible not to jig about, even a little. But the impassive men remained stony, aside from their right pint arm.
So it was at the start of tonight's Joan as Policeman gig. As Joan Wasser shuddered, eyes closed over an extended guitar solo in Good Together, the pints raised and lowered at the same speed, eyes fixed on the stage. Appreciative. Merely so.
The first four songs were from JaPW's new album The Classic - and latest single, the syncopatedly joyous Holy City received an unashamedly joyous reaction back from the crowd.
There's nothing self-conscious about Wasser on stage. Tonight in PVC trousers and t-shirt, black eyeliner, red lipstick she looks every part the coolest girl at school. It's no surprise she's so relaxed: a classically trained multi instrumentalist who has played with everyone who, if you like Joan as Policewoman, you'll admire intensely: Anthony and the Johnsons, Rufus Wainright, Dave Gahan, Lou Reed and many more. You're in good hands and she knows it.
And so I'm pretty sure she wouldn't give a shit that during the middle part of the gig, things sort of tailed off a bit. The pace slowed, or remained unchanged for a couple of songs. People went to get drinks. This was the older stuff, lyrically brilliant but familiar, noiser, and with everything going on at once. Wasser's voice was a little lost. The crowd was feeling it a little less.
But on stage, Joan cared as little as the impassive pint guys around me. She was into it, switching from keyboards to guitar to shimmering gold violin, eyes often shut.
Soon the tracks switched back to more soulful sounds - a track that was possibly from Wasser's days with Anthony and the Johnsons, and more tunes from the new album. The pace picked up again and the crowd started to holler. Reviews have suggested that this style doesn't suit Wasser, or somehow betrays her rockier routes. But the brighter, soulful, more vocally interesting sound was rousing, compelling.
When the encore came and the band lined up to sing 'The Classic' a cappella, followed by a solo 'Your Song', the roof almost came off.
When the lights came up, the impassive pint man to my left was very gently smiling, his empty pint glass hanging limply at his side. I looked to the right: impassive pint man no.2 looked misty-eyed at the stage, pint halfway to mouth, and mouthed to no-one in particular: "Gorgeous".