The Joy Formidable kicked off their UK tour in support of new album Hitch last Saturday in Newcastle, supported by local band Demob Happy, who provided a solid chunk of pure, noisy 90s grunge to kick the show off.
Once The Joy Formidable come onstage, the music is all the bright colours and impressive emotional impact the name implies; playing a mix of fan favourites from their earlier albums and new songs from Hitch, loud drums-and-guitar-heavy music and slower ballads, the show gets off to a good start. An early highlight is recent single ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’, the sing-along-to-the-guitar bridge after the chorus proving as much fun live as it is on record.
The band’s stage presence and handling of the crowd adds a lot to any show, and The Joy Formidable do a memorably great job of it. Drummer Matt Thomas plays with manic enthusiasm that lends a formidable (sorry) energy to the performance, and the banter between guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd (‘If you ask them to turn up your bass any more I won’t be able to hear myself singing!’) provides an entertaining interlude between songs. Ritzy is able to handle the rowdier members of the audience too, responding to a persistent heckler’s complaints about the more recent material by saying ‘We all loved that album but it’s not 2010 anymore, mate.’
This is where the band are most impressive, bouncing off each other as a trio, creating canyons of gleeful instrumental noise, and not letting up for a second.
After a relatively brief show, the band go offstage, but they have already promised an encore, and it’s a great one. They return with a novel gimmick: to come out into the crowd and perform an acoustic song, sans drummer and microphones – on the condition that everyone is very quiet. They perform ‘The Brook’ (also from Hitch) as a rousing, intense duet, and everyone is respectfully quiet except the man in the back (possibly the heckler from earlier?) loudly starting a fight. Very good-humoured about the whole thing, the band resume the song once he’s been escorted outside, and return to the stage proclaiming it to be ‘like the Wild West out there’ – ‘but it’s okay, we’re from Wales.’
For the real finale of the show, of course, they perform ‘Whirring’, an enduring favourite from their debut The Big Roar. After a couple of minutes of uplifting choruses, the song transforms into a swirling instrumental maelstrom appropriate to the name and continues as such for the remaining five minutes it endures. This is where the band are most impressive, bouncing off each other as a trio, creating canyons of gleeful instrumental noise, and not letting up for a second. By the end of the show, everyone (save ejected heckler man) is feeling the impact of that.