The Joy Formidable in The Academy on January 26th 2012

If pulsating début ‘The Big Roar’ – with its ballsy eight minute epic of an opening track – was The Joy Formidable’s early fulfillment of already much-hyped potential, newly-released follow up ‘Wolf’s Law’ was expected to mark their explosive route to the next level. It’s too early to conclusively comment on its success or failure, but what’s immediately apparent is the impact the new sophomore album’s set to have on the Welsh band’s energetic live set up.

Tonight, the three-piece are full of confidence, blending the hefty tones of their pulsating live guitar set up with another display of frontwoman Ritzy Bryan’s growing claim to be considered amongst the upper echelons of rock’s icons in waiting. Ritzy’s particular charm is in her ability to blend a Grohl-esque live energy with an almost twee range of between-song banter: she seamlessly switches from lively rock Goddess to an almost schoolteacher like tone, her banter stretching to references to fellow band members as the somewhat formal Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dafydd along the way. My Dafydd, incidentally, has grown steadily into the role of monstrous bass player and occasional vocalist, and now performs with the confidence of a highly able sidekick. Still, there’s no doubting this is the Ritzy Bryan show.

Like most early album tour outings, tonight suffers a little from a lack of recognizability. Tracks like opener Cholla and mid-set lulls Tendons and Little Blimp are delivered dripping with abrasive chord sequences, backed up by Matt Thomas’ metalhead drumming and leaving the room vibrating with energy, but they’re just not quite on the same plain as the earlier material in terms of connection. What they’ll lack for a while yet is anything approaching a sing-along quality, and the audience is reduced to a relatively passive crowd of spectators next to the more involved, older tracks.

Of ‘The Big Roar’s epic highs, album-opener The Ever Changing Spectrum Of A Lie lives up to its billing as a meanderingly brilliant piece of extended rock-out epicness, closing out a bottom heavy set that only really takes off with the pre-encore tracks. The mildly psychedelic wolf-outline backdrop turns into a full on disco-lit crusade for the three-track return, with the battering guitars of Whirring topping off the night in a tornado of chord-slamming energy.

Tonight is the third time we’ve caught The Joy Formidable since they emerged seemingly fully-formed with the ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ EP. While tonight’s set is certainly the weakest of the three (the guitars have a slightly mangled, jarring edge and a tendency to override Ritzy’s glorious vocals a little too much), The Joy Formidable still come across as one of the liveliest, most colourful and most engaging of rock acts on the scene. The blend of sheer youthful exuberance and experimental, extravagant guitar outtakes can never be less than interesting. Tonight never quite lifts above interesting into special, but it does suggest that when the new album feels a little more integrated, The Joy Formidable are set to step up once again to bigger and better things.

The Joy Formidable Photo Gallery

Photos: Kieran Frost