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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

The Joy Formidable @ Birmingham Academy 3 – Saturday 20 March 2010 – review

There’s been a swathe of interest over The Joy Formidable recently. The spotlight fell favourably on 2009’s A Balloon Called Moaning EP and ears definitely pricked up when the band were invited to support Passion Pit and Editors tours towards the end of the year.

Rhydian, Ritzy and Matt from The Joy Formidable

That meant there was a certain electricity and anticipation amongst the packed crowd in Birmingham’s Academy 3 on Saturday 20 March.

It would be easy for the weight of expectation to lie heavily on the shoulders of this Wales and London-based trio. Instead, with a barrage of drums and guitar reverb, they dissipated the tension and steamrollered into the set with ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’. With its signature three note riff, breathy vocals and the spiralling climb towards an epic change of pace at the close, it begged the question of whether the peak had been reached at the first fence. After all, the track is either an emphatic set closer or a very gutsy, almost arrogant opener.

‘Cradle’ – a short under three minute maelstrom of a song about keeping your tongue tied – followed, before gutsy drums, changes in pace and repeated lyrics hammered home ‘The Last Drop’. Many of the subtleties audible on the recording were drowned out live; a factor which would delight or disappoint depending on subjectivity. To this pair of ears, the wall of sound pleasingly filled the ear drums to almost bursting point.

‘Austere’, ‘Ostrich’ and ‘Whirring’ were served in a similar vein. TJF’s brand of epic shoegaze rock, delivered this time with a slower speed limit, offered time to appreciate the complex and brave way the band dispose with tradition in their lyrics.

Between tracks, Ritzy Bryan’s butter-wouldn’t-melt blonde hair, blue eyes and shy conversation starkly contrasted with her steely, glinting stare and robust, rangy vocals on each track.

With a long snare roll, ‘Magnifying Glass’ had its first introduction to a Birmingham crowd. ‘Anemone’ faired equally as well with it’s nod to a tried and tested TJF formula of tip toeing through the first half of the song, before encouraging the hairs on the neck to stand up during the second. But it was ‘Popinjay’s dig at foppish vanity that stood out as the most inventive of the new material, with a sawing guitar riff which ducked and dived in between the rumbling bass.

Whether intentional, the encore neatly balanced the blistering pace of ‘Greyhounds In The Slips’ with a stripped down version of ‘While The Flies’ – fittingly closing with one last blast of distortion.

On this evidence, TJF don’t appear to have noticed that the music world is waiting with baited breath to see whether their upcoming debut album to follow ‘A Balloon Called Moaning EP’ will fulfil promise. Maybe they’re just too busy enjoying the current ride, but it doesn’t look like they are nervous at all. Instead, they just channel their energy into getting better.

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