With albums named The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law you wouldn’t be blamed for associating The Joy Formidable with a theme of ferocity. And you would have good reason too – their sound is brash and undiluted even after two records and five years on the festival and tour circuit.
Their latest sold out venture to Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms was no exception. The fact that they are a relatively small band of three members was soon forgotten as they hurled themselves onto the stage and launched into opening track ‘Cholla’ with exhilarating vigour.
Joy Formidable had set the mood for the evening, and one which the audience gladly met with exuberant screams of ‘ahh-ahh-ahh’ in nostalgia-fuelled ‘Austere’. Much of the success of set came from the way that old tracks from circa 2009 seemed to be interposed so well with material from albums released concurrently. The transition into “This Ladder is Ours” (minus the lengthy string preamble on the album) was enabled with effortless fluidity and seemed to fit naturally before “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” from their 2011 debut . What could be interpreted as a lack of originality from one record to the next simply shows the band’s strength in maintaining their the brusque edge to their brand of alternative rock that made The Big Roar a critical success.
A lot of Joy Formidable’s energy is owed to lead singer, Ritzy Bryan . She encapsulates their no-timidity policy, leaping around the stage as if it was her own and changing guitars between songs in a blur of constant movement. In the times where the band took a breather with acoustic ballad “Silent Treatment”, she was wide eyed and emotively engaging the audience in every lyric as she sang ‘I’ll take the silent treatment off your hands/Uneven/I’ll take the easy cynicism’. Instead of sending the crowd into lull, it geared them up for the return of the band’s signature raw torrent of abrasive guitars and (out-of-tune, as Ritzy claimed when she teased bassist Rhydian Dafydd at one point) bass in “Maw Maw Song”.
If you forget the slightly unnecessarily lengthy gap before the encore, the Joy Formidable gave Rescue Rooms a gladly welcomed energetic offering of old tracks and new. None of their ferocity since they bellowed onto the scene in 2011 with the The Big Roar and here’s to hoping they won’t lose it.