LIVE: The Joy Formidable – Islington Assembly Hall, London 24.11.19

“Maybe we should’ve started a Bee Gees tribute band? They’re big in Mold” jokes Ritzy Bryan, lead vocalist & guitarist of alternative trio The Joy Formidable. She’s talking about her Welsh hometown, and how her affinity with the Flintshire county is stronger than ever, 10 years after releasing the band’s debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning. “Matt’s got the shirt for it”, bassist Rhydian Dafydd chimes in, as drummer Matt Thomas feigns offense and laughs off the comment.

Fans who have been following the band for the last decade will be used to these charming chats between songs. The trio are on form once again at The Islington Assembly Hall, as they’re in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first EP. Before the jokes start rolling out, the trio have already ripped through three of A Balloon Called Moaning‘s tracks; ‘The Greatest Light’, ‘Cradle’, and ‘Austere’. The room is full of fans and friends – including previous drummer Justin, who gets multiple shout outs – and the feeling is one of excitement and mutual gratitude for the dynamic sound of a band who have weathered this uncertain industry for the last decade.

“This is the farewell tour” teases Rhydian, before quickly adding “Jokes! There’s new music in 2020”. “Who knows what song’s coming next?” Ritzy interjects, as she plucks the opening notes to ‘While The Flies’. The band play the tracks in the order they’re listed on the EP, giving their fans the full A Balloon Called Moaning experience. The enduring power of ‘Whirring’ comes next, with its thudding drum beats, as well as the extended outro that didn’t make the cut on the original EP. It’s followed by stripped back lament ‘9669’. Ritzy and Rhydian’s call-and-response vocals are delivered with grace and gravitas, as the lyrics give insight into an intimate conversation. It’s offset perfectly by penultimate track ‘The Last Drop’ with its manic stop-start rhythms and bold percussion.

Final EP track ‘Ostrich’ is still a dizzying wall of sound when heard live. It’s a mixture of buzzing riffs, longing vocals, and relentless percussion that forms an all-consuming, disorientating aural blur. The crowd are unsure of what comes next – as the EP tracklist has now been completed – but the band burst into ‘Y Bluen Eira’, followed by the powerful ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’, lifted from their 2011 album The Big Roar. These non-EP tracks are greeted with the same amount of enthusiasm.

‘Passerby’, a b-side track from 2016 album Hitch, prefaces a stripped back version of ‘The Leopard & The Lung’. Lifted from their 2013 album Wolf’s Law, Ritzy introduces the track with a message about caring for, and protecting our environment. Rhydian’s gentle keys and the pairs dual vocals make this song a real set highlight. Next, they ask the crowd if there’s a track they’d like to hear, and after lots of inaudible shouts, the band settle for ‘Caught On A Breeze’, before leaving the stage.

They return for an encore of ‘Anemone’ – influenced by the tragedies of John Webster – and the formidable ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie’. It’s an apt song to close with, as the trio have evolved and grown over the last decade into gracious, and talented performers. There’s nothing to lament about their celebratory performance of A Balloon Called Moaning, and that is a fitting legacy for a formidable record, produced by an equally formidable band.

Order your 10 Year Anniversary reissue of A Balloon Called Moaning/Y Falŵ​n Drom on vinyl here.

Photo Credit: Steve Reynolds

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LIVE: The Joy Formidable – The Lexington, 22.08.18

Almost six years to the day since they last played the venue, The Joy Formidable made a triumphant return to The Lexington to perform to a sold out crowd on Wednesday night. Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt are masters of loud-and-quiet alternative anthems, and despite being absent from the London live scene recently; the trio have lost none of their momentum.

Opening their set with the riotous and rarely played ‘Greyhounds In The Slips’, the band tore through the song with impressive precision and energy. ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ followed, before the all-encompassing ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ took hold – filling the venue with foot-thumping and chants of appreciation. At the close of the song, guitarist & vocalist Ritzy, and bassist Rhydian addressed the “familiar faces” in their crowd, and banter about her “mountain troll” clumsiness – as well as drummer Matt’s intake of walnuts and whisky – drew hearty laughs from their loyal fans.

After this brief hiatus, the trio eased in to ‘Ostrich’. Unlike the recorded version, this rendition hosted a calmer intro; reflecting Ritzy’s words about the song’s theme of “moving on and forgiving” people. The pay-off was still every inch as powerful, so nothing was lost in the translation. With their fourth album AAARTH due for release next month, the band then showcased some of their new material – including their latest single ‘The Wrong Side’ – which rang out with trademark Joy Formidable intensity.

Hitch single ‘This Ladder Is Ours’ thundered through shortly after, before the band briefly left the stage, returning for a knockout encore. Between the blur of ‘Buoy’ (which was given similar treatment to ‘Ostrich’) and final track ‘Whirring’, the band took some time to remind fans that next year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning. Ritzy promised TJF would be celebrating the occasion with some intimate acoustic shows, then promptly apologised for not playing the acoustic dates she promised last time she was in town, when the band played at Oslo in Hackney.

In one final six minute frenzy of riffs and raucous drumming, the band threw themselves and their instruments around the stage during ‘Whirring’, leaving their crowd fired up with the promise of seeing them in town again soon. The Joy Formidable have been on the musical radar for almost a decade, and last night’s performance proved they’ve got another decade’s worth of raw live power in them.

Support came from the wonderful Bryde – who performed with a full band – who TJF heartily praised.

Pre-order your copy of The Joy Formidable’s AAARTH here.
Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut