Well I’m very glad I went. I got there at just the right moment, I reckon, when it wasn’t so crowded that I couldn’t get a spot right in front of the stage but not so early that there were hours to wait.
I took up my position feeling like I was doing a very good impersonation of a pro. Looked at the position of the singer’s mic, the lighting, set various important-seeming settings on the camera. Of course I’d forgotten that she (Joan) divides her time between keyboards and guitar so I ended up on the wrong side of the stage and therefore not in the best position at all.
She wore a hat. She told us it had been a bit of a last-minute decision. She took it off later and apologised for her hair being such a terrible mess. I found the effect anything but unpleasant.
Here’s another one of bassist Rainy Orteca. Is it as good as the one I put up yesterday? I dunno. Slightly out of focus, no smile, but I’m not sure I don’t prefer it.
The drummer, Parker Kindred (what a great name it is, now that I’ve discovered it), spent a lot of the time with his brow furrowed in a worried-looking fashion like an emaciated bloodhound. In this picture he looks somewhat more sanguine.
I love watching musicians. The intense inward concentration, the expressions sometimes bordering on agony; it reminds me of people enjoying really good sex.
I’m sure it’s a comparison Joan would appreciate. She explained that the song (from the forthcoming album To Survive) Hard White Wall was a song about lust and the consummation thereof against the eponymous structure.
So, as TG pointed out on the previous post, enough with the visuals already, what was the music like? I am sorry to have to report that the sound balance was so appalling that I can’t really give any meaningful appraisal. Maybe it was my position at the front of the stage, but I really can’t imagine that I should not have been able to hear the vocals above the keyboards.
The opening song was To Be Loved which is lined up to be the first single from the new album. She was nervous, visibly and audibly nervous, but warmed up quickly.
The set mixed new material with the three tracks from Real Life which had been released as singles – Flushed Chest, Christable and, as the encore, Eternal Flame. Of the forthcoming release I’m already familiar with To Be Lonely, Start Of My Heart and Furious from the video of the concert she gave at Amsterdam’s Paradiso which appears no longer to be online.
For all these tracks it was just about ok that the overall sound quality was rubbish and the balance appalling, I was singing along anyway. But when it came the stuff I hadn’t already heard it was extremely frustrating.
Worst of all was right at the end. After the encore drummer and bassist left the stage leaving Joan alone at the keyboard. And every sound she made produced a rattling noise akin to the sound of stage thunder from the speaker. It sounded to me like an open mic over the drum kit picking up some kind of resonance off one of the skins. Or maybe by then the speakers themselves were ashamed of the noise they were having to pump out and were giving up the will to sound.
So the finale of the evening, the title track of the album, To Survive, was for me entirely ruined by the accompaniment of the rattling of dried chickpeas in a large tin trunk.
But if I had to draw a conclusion I would say that the new album looks to be as powerful as the debut with a mix of haunting, intimate songs and the harder, faster and syncopated beats of Hard White Wall and spitting power of Furious. As a performer she is protean in her ability to move from tender to ferocious, she’s witty and charming as she riffs with the audience while retuning her guitar. Oh, and her footwear is always worth drooling over. I shall definitely buy the album when it comes out, and would love to see her again live, with the added and as yet unachieved advantage of being able to hear her properly as well.
(Gig on 17 April 2008 at the Roundhouse FREEDM Studio [“the square room in the round building”])