The Joy Formidable - Trees - April 29, 2013

Categories: Show Reviews

Joy Formidable-3.jpg
Mike Brooks
The Joy Formidable
Trees
April 29, 2013

Taking the stage around 9:30, the Joy Formidable came out one at a time, starting with drummer Matt Thomas, who threw his enthusiasm at the crowd before sitting behind a picturesque kit, complete with gong. The kit was positioned on the right edge of the stage and oriented to give him a view of his mates, and the audience a good view of him as performer. After taking up a beat, he was joined by bassist Rhydian Dafydd, who saluted the crowd with beer in hand before strapping on a war-torn Fender Jaguar bass. Any finally out came Bryan, wearing a dress with what at first appears to be a sheriff's badge. Greeting the crowd warmly, she took up the first of what seems like a bottomless supply of Fenders and kicked the band into "Cholla" off the new album.

Joy Formidable's staging is impressive, with a full video backdrop and a wolf's head silhouette that can, when the mood is right, glow or flash with LEDs. There is room to move on the stage, which is important since Bryan will spend a fair amount of time whirling like a dervish when not singing into her light-draped mike. All in all, a great start and a presence that is stage-ready for a much larger room.

There were some nice little flourishes during the show, as when a reading from Longfellows's The Arrow and the Song started Little Blimp, for me one of the better songs on Wolf's Law.

Still, there wasn't much that felt spontaneous or true. This is a band that is maniacal in its ambition to win you over. Polished, completely calculating, choreographed, with Bryan alternating between a grin that had my jaws aching after a bit, or a surprised "oh" when she tossed off a fuzzy lick on her guitar. The sound was a bit muddy, so on the occasions she tried to whip the crowd up with a bit of between-song banter, no one around me could actually understand a word.

Joy Formidable-1.jpg
Mike Brooks

The set was a bit more than an hour, with the songs pretty balanced between the band's two albums. During the acoustic "Silent Treatment" Dafyyd played a deft guitar while Bryan sang in a voice that, in this more quiet setting sounded surprising like Edie Brickell.
The turnout for this Welch power-pop trio was pretty good for a Monday night. The band created some real buzz when they came through town as part of the EDGE Christmas show this past December. January's release of their second album, Wolf's Law, built on that. And a quick search for the band shows countless pictures of the pixie-ish Ritzy Bryan with a blunt haircut obviously tearing up her guitar with gusto. So the room was comfortably full.

All in all, the band was bent on entertaining, more so than actually performing. The goal was achieved, but with all the sweetness and satisfaction of a bite of cotton candy.

Joy Formidable-5.jpg
Mike Brooks


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2 comments
fellice
fellice

Doug you old cynic. Funny sort of review full of contradictions. Always enjoy going to a t.j.f. gig-a great live experience and certainly not contrived.

Anonymous
Anonymous like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a cynical, miserable conclusion. Having followed TJF for a long time now, I know that they are actually one of the more refreshingly honest - and least calculating - bands out there.

Ritzy's on-stage character and facial expressions are a truthful expression of her extrovert and make-the-most-of-life personality. The band always make loads of time to meet their fans, and having met them a few times now I know that their performance is completely genuine. You simply have to look up a few live videos online - particularly the ending of Whirring - to know that each night is different and NOT chorographed.

To call them out for lack of spontaneity is just laughable if you've seem them live before. Firstly, a number of their songs are different live from on record - just look at live videos of Whirring, Spectrum, Tendons and Forest Serenade for a start. Secondly, you contradict yourself when moaning about the lack of spontaneity by then noting Ritzy's bantering to the crowd - TJF's off-the-cuff banter between the band members and to the audience is another reason people love them. And to cap it off you then moan simply because you can't hear it! Thirdly, some nights Ritzy goes into the audience. Some nights it's Rhydian. Other nights no-one does. Some nights they let audience members play their guitars. Etc etc.

I don't often respond like this, but when a conclusion is as badly researched and inaccurate as this it shouldn't go unanswered.

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