The Joy Formidable Live Review @ Thekla (Bristol) - 02 Feb 2011
Photos: Hannah Spencer
Following an outstanding support set from angst-fuelled Stockton-On-Tees quartet, The Chapman Family, an increased air of anticipation buzzed through the full-capacity crowd aboard Bristol's Mud Dock-moored boat-shaped gig venue, the Thekla. The Chapman Family were frankly everything a gig goer could ask for; a tight, loud, determined, raging musical storm of a four-piece who threw absolutely everything they had and more into their performance and an undoubtedly tough act for female-fronted Welsh trio, The Joy Formidable to follow. Judging by the size and complexity of the pedal effects boards rigged up and waiting for the Welsh three-piece, however, they too were intent on making lots of noise and refusing to disappoint. Did they disappoint? No way, the word isn't even close to their vocabulary.
Opening their set with 'The Ever-changing Spectrum Of A Lie', the almighty epic opener to their recently released and much acclaimed album The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable's music grew from a bed of choreographed and calculated electronic sounds into something quite beautiful. With their drummer Matt Thomas lurking in the wing, bass guitarist and backing vocalist Rhydian Daffyd and vocalist and guitarist the stunning Ritzy Bryan stood confidently in front of a backdrop of fairy lit trees. The band's sound rapidly proceeded to engulf the space in its entirety; three superb musicians projecting a hell of a sound across the darkness of the Thekla's heaving hull. Having joked about the audience clapping hands together, dancing and sinking the ship, Ritzy Bryan and the boys then launched through 'The Magnifying Glass', recent single 'Austere' and fan favourite 'The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade' with every bit the perfection of their opener; precisely blending pre-recorded loops with tight live performance.
Later remarking about it being good to play on a ship without it being a cruise ship, Ritzy frequently took time to talk to her adoring audience almost as longstanding friends and similarly, mid-track, she'd stand right on the edge of the stage, closer to the same applauding crowd. Perfectly balancing a friendly informality with a captivating focus whereby her sparkling blue eyes stared fixatedly into the darkness, Ritzy Bryan proved herself quite the charming front-woman. Communication on-stage was equally as relaxed and effortless with the band seeming to enjoy every minute of their show just as their sold out audience.
During the second half of their set The Joy Formidable seemed even more comfortable and confident in their position, never ceasing to build on their effortless, divine blend. From the aptly titled 'Buoy' silhouetted through misty, atmospheric red lighting through the ever-popular 'Cradle' to the melodic bass-led '9669' and closing with 'Whirring', the band maintained their exceptionally high standard throughout, with Ritzy (together with Big Jeff!) also forcing much energy upon Matt's cymbals in a dramatic climax. On leaving the stage with electronic loops still sounding clear, The Joy Formidable were cheered back to the stage to encore with 'A Heavy Abacus' before reluctantly retreating to their backstage room for the final time.
Sparkly-eyed blonde Ritzy Bryan seems petite, cute, harmless, but when she takes to the stage an almighty powerful voice effortlessly oozes from her; in fact, for a mere three piece, The Joy Formidable sound an almighty powerful musical blend, and the live environment they reiterate everything outstanding about themselves. A superb performance that can only be criticised for its short duration.
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