Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Joy Formidable @ Academy 2, Leicester

13 February 2011

With the build up to The Joy Formidable’s debut album and first headline tour lasting longer than the entire shelf life of some bands, this push could’ve been mistimed. But the threesome’s immaculate maelstrom of noise at Leicester’s Academy 2 shows their ‘Big Roar’ hasn’t arrived even a moment too late.

Fairy lights and chimes prior to The Ever Changing Spectrum Of A Lie kept secret its wall of sound until it was ready to strike. And if reaction to this and other new tracks on debut album, The Big Roar, had at first seemed underwhelmed, just a few seconds of see-sawing guitars, spat out, diction-perfect lyrics, and rib cage-shaking drums would’ve silenced criticism.

Chilling cackles introduced the blisteringly paced The Magnifying Glass; then came the grumbling bass and familiar sighs of Austere. Although the delivery was impeccably polished, this didn’t spoil the threesome’s collective on-stage personality, as they reacted to the crowd’s ecstasy with bemused grins.

A clattering typewriter formed the beat to underpin Chapter 2, its grunge softened by sound effects and half-whispered verses, before the force of Ritzy Brian’s chorus almost shocked the body out of its skin.

I Don’t Want to See You Like This encapsulates the essence that makes The Joy Formidable so irresistible – simple melodies that mask the difficulty of making a track that is both instantly memorable, yet good enough to endure. Tightly coiled riffs contrasted with Ritzy’s beautifully soulful repeated pleading of the track title over and over again, her expressions hid beneath her blonde bob.

Rhydian Dafydd’s Mansun-esque vocals served Greyhounds In The Slips, during which a pregnant pause prepped the way for the exclamation, “29, 29 equals gone!”, that produced a moment to box up and take home. Perhaps even more glorious was drummer Matt Thomas’ complex, eye-watering drum roll that required visual proof to verify it wasn’t delivered by a machine.

The doom-influenced chords of Buoy were prefixed by haunting guitars, before crowd favourite Cradle brought its acerbic tones of an ending relationship.

The Joy Formidable showed the value of a pace breaker with 9669, nodding to their softer side. Even in their loudest moments they maintained intimacy by showing how much they enjoy performing together. This was illustrated by the revamped version of Whirring which they revelled in, playing it facing each other for the most part. And with cheeky nods to Matt, Rhydian and Ritzy signalled the start of the added metal-inspired section at the end, with double foot pedal rhythms that felt worthy of a stadium.

A Balloon Called Moaning EP’s The Last Drop was the first of the encore, its start-stop rhythms and repeated lyrics an instant crowd pleaser. Saving the best until last, most knew the breathily-delivered lyrics of The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade. Its initial slow rhythm created suspense before the track’s pleasurable snap into double pace, played against echoes of “Happy for you, happy for you” – lyrics that appeared to be sung back at The Joy Formidable by the crowd, as acknowledgement of the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point.

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The Joy Formidable @ Academy 2, Leicester