The Joy Formidable live in Norwich
- By John Watts -
- Jan 29, 2013
A mere two days have passed since the release of their eagerly anticipated sophomore record and already, The Joy Formidable, refusing to rest on their laurels, are back to re-establish their credentials as one of Britain's most thrilling acts.
Ritzy Bryan (vocals/guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass) and Matt Thomas (drums) return to these shores armed with the natural enchantment of 'Wolf's Law' – an album dreamt up in a remote log cabin hidden away in the snowy surroundings of Casco, Maine. As the follow-up to 2011's critically acclaimed début, 'The Big Roar', it encapsulates heavy themes, emotive lyricism and heralds further ambition in the shape of its grandiose pop-rock arrangements – it's little wonder the trio are so desperate to share it with us instantaneously.
Although their alluring output is destined to be accommodated by the very same arenas toured in with Muse this past Autumn, it's in intimate spaces such as tonight's venue where the band’s words and presence resonate most emphatically. From the moment Ritzy (bereft of her usual peroxide blonde glow) and Co. take to the confined stage they are met yearningly by a predominantly middled-aged following.
The ferocious whirlwind of distortion that is 'Cholla' soon reverberates around the claustrophobic walls of the Waterfront as Bryan points her fingers and glares wide-eyed at those huddled conveniently closest. Fellow Wolf's Law tracks such as the energetic bundle of joy, 'This Ladder is Ours', and the anthemic love-song, 'Tendons', fit seamlessly into an already existing monumental live arsenal.
“We've missed you”, says the diminutive front-woman, taking time to draw breath and reacquaint herself with an audience treated like old friends. However, there is little time for a rekindling as the thunderous opening bars of ‘Cradle’ hit out and the metaphorical shackles are well and truly shaken off. Whilst the long-haired Thomas erratically hammers away at his drums a joyous Daffyd soon enters the realm and proceeds to head-butt the crash cymbal before turning his attentions on Bryan for a spot of guitar jousting. The Wales-formed three-piece are clearly in their element.
A shift in momentum is soon brought by Bryan when she dedicates a charming rendition of early-EP track ‘While the Flies’ to Norwich - the band’s “adopted second home”. This coupled with a breathtaking catharsis during the acoustic ‘Silent Treatment’ stand tall as the evening’s overwhelming highlights. Despite her fragile-looking exterior Bryan comes across strongly as an artist who has never been afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. Exuding the utmost confidence from start to finish her vocals serve as a focal point for the soft/loud antithesis ever-present throughout The Joy Formidable’s music.
Only during set-closer ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ do the transitions between her quaintly sung verses and imperiously delivered choruses become strained. Considering the astute dexterity of the song and it coming moments after a conquering run-through of new fan’s favourite, ‘Maw Maw Song’, it’s easily forgotten in the grand scheme of things.
Concluding on the slow-building audaciousness of ‘Whirring’ the band leave to the sound of feedback ringing in their ears and a vociferous reception tugging away at their hearts. At the beginning of this spectacle Bryan sang the words, “Where are we going, what are we doing”, and though the trio seem perfectly content when it comes to receiving a modest adulation their unrivalled ambition seems fated to grander audiences. On tonight's evidence The Joy Formidable are in the ascendency and evidently climbing the ladder to greatness. Catch them before they explode.
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