Live: Thanks. From the Deep of my Heart. Joan As Police Woman, Queen Elizabeth Hall.

This month the Southbank Centre hauled in baroque pop minstrel Antony to curate its annual Meltdown, and a thorough refurb in feel he's been furnishing the idyllic riverside cultural retreat with over the past week too. Conducting a folkloric saunter both proverbial and enviable through hallowed halls previously trodden by the likes of Bowie, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Costello, Cave and Ray Davies just last year, there's a particular poignancy to the unchanged designation (one resolute since '93) of this year's series as the capital finds itself at the very centre of Olympian maelstrom. If Meltdown hasn't yet descended it feels as though it may at any moment. Serenity thus secluded where feels far from the sheer lunacy of it all (irrefutably its obsessional heaving has now become almost impossible to withstand) Joan As Police Woman mentions the 'Games but once. Sportive, if somewhat demure of demeanour this evening, one senses her interests lie elsewhere.

Last witnessed in London when accompanied by her minimal yet masterful troupe, tonight she's initially backed up only by the incessant clack of a Canon armada and the grandest of pianos. Subtly; unassumingly she proffers fleeting peeks into a forthcoming duets effort with frequent collaborator and Japan frontman David Sylvian. Thus as such, grimacing, she plaintively enquires on tonight's opener: "Why don't you stay another night?" atop grandiose rolls of ebony and ivory. It's a typically graceful introduction to a night filled with swoon although with she sat alone, it only feels as though we're getting half the story to this tale of both emotional and indeed motional tussle.

Vocally as idiosyncratic as ever, Kiss The Specifics signals a return to the jazz-doused, off-kilter beguilement that's been her dumbfounding truncheon to Antony's beloved Johnsons ever since Real Life of '06, and with that to this real referenced in song; to the universally recognised. There's an inspiring casualness to her smooth tinker and if the fervent whooping and wailing which greets every momentary respite be anything to go by she's energised her fair share, galvanising a perfectly cosy Queen Elizabeth Hall in the process. This closeness of we to she is inflamed further not only by intimacy – adoring heckles are hurled her way routinely tonight, even prompting an impromptu verse of two of The Magic in its closing moments – but also by the likes of Human Condition. "About falling in love with every single person on the train", her candid expression of jovial coexistence may be a mentality (or perhaps morality) at odds with many an overwrought Londoner although she tonight sends us collectively into a heady tizz of healthy empathy and does so, quite astonishingly, with just two hands.

For with she herself here reduced to but a single person, estranged for much of the show beneath a billow of manufactured smoke linger and enshrouded by the alluring ether of fabricated light, if The Magic may be rather unconventionally omitted then the magic and mysticism of Wasser remain. And resolutely so: she mimics torturous "photo poses" when not adorably bantering between otherwise exceedingly solemn balladry, laughs at her every comedic outburst as though she were on her first tour of Holland and swigs rigorously from her trusty Thermos flask whenever not exhaling arrestingly crestfallen idiom. A reconfigured ramble through the superlative froths, flickers and whispers of Eternal Flame, meanwhile, revels and bathes in an unprecedentedly voluble feedback: her every guitar string scrape with weathered finger reverberates so potently it's as though it is to corrode all six coils into the immateriality from whence they originally came with each and every resonance. Whether or not the desired consequence she excels, as ever, with said song.

Eventually joined by "the man that replaced me in the Johnsons" and impersonator of a jejune Dylan impression, Rob Moose on another previously, literally unsung duet this one hangs from the lyrical lynchpin: "You're my woman and I'm your man". Whether she'll be the one to sing this particular (and tonight particularly moving) refrain on any finalised recording remains to be heard although it serves to negate quite spectacularly the social construction and subsequent prejudices of gender disparity at any rate. A very much current Olympic affair no less. Simultaneously abjuring such conflict though, it pertains to the feel of a campfire singsong: the ambience as benign as the warming lap of the pacific against her native East Coast, it ain't merely the humidity up in here conjuring such an effect.

Indubitably when devoid of drums to keep your attentions in regimented check, the mind does momentarily begin to wander. However whilst this may oft be deemed a point of negativity and perhaps of personal ignorance, the mind here waltzes off with the music to seduce it so, only reconvening with consciousness as temperate applause begins to ripple throughout the venue. The transporting sway to The Ride glides adorations into gear and having been personally requested by "my Antony; my creator" and our ostensible idol, we join he in befuddlement as to why its unsuspecting sultriness; its subdued soulfulness never be aired more often. Newbie Morning Bell tolls to ring in a little boredom which is perpetuated by yet more Antony eulogy and a lulling recitation of Sandy Denny's No More Sad Refrains although against thalassic lighting and buoyed by ebbing keys Wasser's art again resides in affable placidity. As the show then flows into Start Of My Heart, she assumes a smoky Simone gruff as we're ferried to the best jazz bar Carlsberg could never construct: words turn to groans, which in turn become moans as arms and shoulders intertwine within this most attentive of audiences. It's beautiful, and as emotive as anything to have been broadcast outta Stratford this past week.

Profuse acceptance speech-styled thanks then ensue as they're thrust forth toward Antony, and all in attendance and this, the first town in which she proclaims to have got "wasted in." Nonetheless to return to the temporally relevant, whatever it may be in the flask I'll have what she's having for Wasser distils a breathtaking emotionality as indebted to Messrs and Mrs. Wainwright as it is to classical dramaturgy, and as songs flitter between heavy and heady she tonight somehow maintains the remarkable capacity to paint great cinematic scapes even without the scope provided by a full-on backing band. She may be somewhat full-on herself but with a set stacked with so much majesty who are we to diagnose such insignificance?