The Joy Formidable at the Fine Line, 03/19/12
The Joy Formidable
With A Place To Bury Strangers and Exitmusic
Fine Line, Minneapolis
March 19, 2012
It seems inconceivable that a young band like the Joy Formidable would already have two legendary local shows under their belt before their second album even comes out. But after last night's incendiary performance at the very sold-out Fine Line (in addition to their Entry gig last April), there is no doubt that the dynamic Welsh trio are one of the best live bands going at the moment. Their explosive 80-minute set steamrolled over the packed club, as frontwoman Ritzy Bryan led the charge with her massive guitar riffs and animated, effervescent stage presence.
The breathless 12-song set was perfectly paced, with the band wasting little time between numbers as they rolled from one riotous track to the next. While their new record is mostly finished and due out later this year, we had to wait until the encore to hear a new song. But that's not a problem at all when you have an album as exceptional at The Big Roar, and nine of the evening's songs were drawn from that untamed release. The set began with the blistering churn of "A Heavy Abacus," and never really slowed down at all, as the band rapidly stormed through "I Don't Want To See You Like This," and an extended, tumultuous run through of "Cradle" that was an early set highlight.
The stage set was also phenomenal, with a working lighthouse set in front of a bird covered, carnival-like backdrop that only added to the festive nature of the performance. There was also the looming presence of an enormous gong and a harp, which only hinted at what was to come. Before a boisterous version of "Austere," Bryan mentioned the colossal rain storm that just rolled through Minneapolis and drenched most of us on our way to the show, "You guys have different rain than we do in Wales. You have big fuckin' droplets." And during the song's muted breakdown the crowd was hushed, which caused Ritzy to joke, "Nobody has been that quiet during this song on tour, but I like it. Normally, it's like 'get your tits out,' which Rhydian (Dafydd-the bassist) quite likes."
After touring these same songs for so long, the Joy Formidable have now breathed even more life into tracks which were already bristling with a fitful energy. So "The Magnifying Glass" took on an added intensity, while "Buoy" featured a pre-recorded spoken-word intro before the song kicked in, as well as a rowdy, extended breakdown at the end of the track, which found Bryan frenetically banging the gong in time with the mountainous rhythms of drummer Matt Thomas. That caused the crowd to chant, "Gong! Gong!" which caused Ritzy to laugh and ask for patience, for the gong would come into play again.
Bryan also joked about how she was half-expecting snow in Minneapolis, claiming "I packed my sled and my snow boots for this show." But even with the torrential downpour and dark skies outside, the weather was not going to put a damper on this show. The band dug a bit deeper into their back catalog for a couple of numbers that brought the main set to a close, with Bryan stating that "Endtapes" was one of the first three songs they wrote, while "Greyhounds In The Slips" was an early single for the band which was later added as a bonus track on the A Balloon Called Moaning EP.
After the main set closed with the anthemic "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade," the band left the stage to a rousing, deafening ovation, which continued straight through until Bryan and Dafydd came back out alone as the encore began. The duo treated us to a lovely, acoustic version of their new song, "Silent Treatment," which was a somber but spirited track that will surely sound a bit more pronounced once it's given the full band treatment.
The band brought out Stephanie to play a delicate but gorgeous harp intro and accompaniment to their massive last song of the night, the epic "Whirring," which the band turned into a raucous 15-minute version that found Stephanie wisely leaving the stage before the rest of the group dismantled both the song and the stage. Ritzy wildly threw her guitar at the gong, before dragging it by the cord back to her so she could finish wailing away. And once Bryan determined the song needed to come to an end, she went over and upended Thomas' drums.
The crowd managed to pick their jaws up off the floor of the Fine Line in order to give them one last ovation as they left the stage, with Dafydd emphatically kissing a Welsh flag which a fan in the front row brought to the show. Bryan promised that the band would be back soon, and here's to hoping that we don't have to wait too long to be able to witness the Joy Formidable lay waste to yet another Minneapolis club and add another show to the record books.
Personal Bias: I thought the Joy Formidable's Entry set was one of the best live shows of 2011. I thought this performance was even better.
The Crowd: As packed as I've seen the Fine Line recently, but full of rabid Joy Formidable fans.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I really hope they play 'Whirring'"-- said before the show by someone who was obviously seeing the Joy Formidable for the first time.
Random Notebook Dump: I risked getting drenched just so I would be able to see the first of two openers, Exitmusic, and their soaring, textured songs totally justified my efforts. It was a wonderful set by the first of two Brooklyn opening bands, and also featured Aleksa Palladino on vocals, who played Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire. A Place To Bury Strangers filled the club with smoke and discord during their wonderfully abrasive set, with Dion Lunadon tearing the strings off of his bass before defiantly playing the last song with only one string. It was caustic and electrifying, basically everything a good rock 'n' roll set should be.
A Heavy Abacus
I Don't Want To See You Like This
The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie
The Magnifying Glass
Greyhounds In The Slips
The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
Silent Treatment (New Song)(Encore)
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