The Joy Formidable – Concert Review
In a few months, The Joy Formidable will be playing in front of packed stadiums while supporting the Foo Fighters.
Before that, they have a slot at Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival in London to attend to. So tonight in Las Vegas, they shook off the dust with a small warm-up gig at the cozy Bunkhouse Saloon in front of a few hundred very lucky fans. When two of the biggest bands of the last thirty years are reaching out to book your band, there should be nothing but smiles and that is exactly how tonight played out. From the opening notes of “The Leopard And The Lung”, the band appeared ecstatic to be making their exquisite din after several months off.
In today’s hyper-fast industry, sticking together for over a decade is significant and The Joy Formidable have managed to navigate the personal and professional pitfalls of the business to reach a new creative plateau. The band’s intensity was razor sharp throughout the 80 minute set with songs pulled from all corners of their career including some rarely heard deep cuts that had the most devoted fans gushing after the show.
The band’s evolution over the last decade was especially noticeable as the band explored new territory on older tracks. The loud/soft dynamic and thundering codas were still delivered with aplomb but the melodic textures were allowed to ride atop the wave of music more clearly than ever before on songs like “Cradle” and “Whirring”. Ritzy Bryan’s lead guitar work, especially, sounded more aggressive and intricate. Much like Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, Bryan injects jaw-dropping technique into the music without overshadowing the melodic thrust of each song. Weaving ingenious bass lines around her guitar riffs, Rhydian Dafydd matched her intensity as sly looks were shared between the two.
Drummer Matt Thomas’ unbridled joy behind the kit provided a show for anyone who could tear their eyes away from the two guitarists. Playing with absolute abandon, Thomas embodies the upbeat attitude and unrelenting sense of humour that seems to inhabit the best drummers, from Keith Moon to Dave Grohl. The ferocious b-side “Passerby” was a tour de force in rock-n-roll aesthetics with Thomas pushing the band harder and harder. Perhaps sensing the impending tinnitus of the electrified audience, the band reeled back for a delicate playing of “A Heavy Abacus” which allowed everyone to catch their breath.
A three song encore felt cathartic for the band as Bryan and Dafydd bounced off each other until they finally fell to the ground to twist and turn their array of pedals. The cacophony had a melody all its own much like the band itself. The band’s quick wit and passion felt renewed tonight after years of non-stop touring. The time away from the stage might have generated some nerves before the show but tonight’s performance laid any concerns to rest. Whether shaking the rafters of a tiny club or sending huge choruses to the top of a stadium, The Joy Formidable continue to dazzle.