music / Reviews

The Joy Formidable – Terminal 5, New York, NY (3.28.12)

April 7, 2012 | Posted by Matt Arena

The Joy Formidable are somewhat of an oddity in the music industry. A young, female fronted three piece that blends hard rock and synth-rock isn’t something that you think would work, but it does. An not only does it work, but its helped The Joy Formidable become massively successful. Though only just releasing their debut album last year, they’ve been around since 2007 and have been able to build a fan base that you’d expect from a much older band. The release of the not-quite-EP-not-quite-studio-album, ‘A Balloon Called Moaning,’ back in January of 2009 definitely helped put The Joy Formidable on people’s radar. With some of their now biggest tracks first making their appearance on this release, it spread wildly through the scene. But it wasn’t until the release of their first full-length album, ‘A Big Roar’ that the North Wales three piece really took off. Of course a personal endorsement and support slot from Foo Fighters probably helped a lot too. Playing in front of one of the biggest tours this past year no doubt helped the band gain even more exposure. Between the critical success of a the album and the maddening pace with which they toured with, it was only a matter of time before The Joy Formidable were able to headline their very own tour.

That’s exactly what they were doing at Terminal 5 in New York City on March 28th, 2012. Ironically enough, this rather large headlining show was at the very same venue as their first ever show in New York. The sudden burst in success that allowed them to go from support to headlining in less than a year’s time was not lost on lead singer Ritzy Bryan, who acknowledged this very fact when talking to the crowd. Opening with this writer’s absolute favorite track off the album, ‘A Heavy Abacus,’ they kicked things off excellently. Preceding the song was an atmospheric intro, with subtle hints at the main melody of Abacus when suddenly drummer Matt Thomas exploded into the song’s booming opening as the unmistakable siren-like guitar riff kicked in. A monster of a live track, its blaring chorus builds on the strength of Ritzy Bryan’s wailing vocals and the sheer amount of noise that these three are able to make. The injection of energy and the growth of each track from the studio to live is especially apparent on songs like ‘A Heavy Abacus,’ that jump off the album and are absolute madness live. A near perfect opening song (only regret is having to photograph during this, thus being unable to fully rock out), it set the mood instantly. The relentless, thrashing sound The Joy Formidable creates while performing live is palpable on tracks like this. The bruising nature of their live sound has a lot to do with the overpowering amount of energy they pump out, with the band members whipping themselves around which seems to add another layer of to the punch of their performance.

Admittedly giving them a more “metal aesthetic when it comes to drums,” the rapid bashing by Matt Thomas would normally be out of place in a band like The Joy Formidable, but the blending of sounds works perfectly. The heavily layered nature of their music helps as sounds mix on tracks like ‘Austere’ and ‘ Cradle’, the former showcasing this eclectic mix of soaring melody and thrashing rock. The thumping foundation of the song blended together perfectly with Ritzy’s haunting vocals to create a far reaching sound that echoed throughout the entire venue. The bizarrely unique stage design they brought has to be mentioned as well. Seemingly trying to turn the venue into a beach, they littered the stage with nautical themed props. There was a giant captain’s wheel/mic stand, massive hanging nets and even lighthouses placed around the band members to create an odd yet undeniably cool look to the stage. The beach theme was further pushed when Matt Thomas came out for the encore break in a full on lobster costume. Not only puzzling the audience but also Ritzy as she commented, “I’m never going to be able to get over that” as they belted into hands down their best live track, ‘Whirring.’ Complete with a stringed harp intro and now trademark 5+ minute outro jam, they took a once 6 minute song and stretch it into nearly 15. The frenzied bashing of her guitar against the giant gong towards the back of the sage, Ritzy’s unrestrained stage presence is never clearer than during this song. Ending the night on the best note possible, they exited the stage to a blown away crowd of fans and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they deserve every bit of popularity they’ve received thus far.

Feel free to check out all my photos from this show on my flickr page.







The 411: Playing a venue that's usually booked by acts with multiple albums, The Joy Formidable prove that they do indeed live up to the hype. Breathing new life into nearly every song played live, they showcase why seeing a band live is almost nothing compared to just listening to the album. Definitely one of the best live acts out there, The Joy Formidable are only going to get bigger as they continue to grow as a band.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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