The Joy Formidable, Gorilla, Manchester
15th February 2019
It seems to be recognised that many three-piece bands have something special about them – each member is constantly in the spotlight, with no one to hide behind. Your musical talent and skill have to be on point, since there’s no room for mistakes; tonight, in Manchester’s Gorilla, The Joy Formidable prove through and through that trios rock just as hard as bigger bands, if not even harder.
Welsh-language band Adwaith open the show suitably; their swirling melodies are a brilliant fit for The Joy Formidable, who are very proud of their Welsh heritage, and rightfully so if tonight’s anything to go by. The main event kicks off with Y Bluen Eira and it’s clear from the off just how intense this show is going to be; Ritzy Brian, one of the most skilled guitarists everyone in the room has ever had the pleasure of watching, weaves intricate melodies through chugging punk basslines and pounding drums. The band’s ability to balance loud and soft dynamics to create powerful build-ups and heavy drops is commendable – you know that stomach-drop you get when you plummet down rollercoaster tracks? That’s how every track makes you feel. It’s utterly exhilarating and baffling how only three instruments can sound like an entire orchestra.
The musical talent each member of this band has can be comparable only to a group as huge as Muse – softer moments like an acoustic rendition of A Heavy Abacus and Underneath The Petal are equally as potent as punk-infused, stadium-worthy tracks like Little Blimp and Ostrich. This is because of the ease with which Brian and co. play their instruments; from the pounding double-bass drumming rounding off Whirring, to bassist Rhydian Dafydd jumping on the drum kit mid-solo as if he’s been doing it since birth, The Joy Formidable make playing look effortless whilst having so much fun doing it. Drummer Matthew Thomas’ sticks fly over his vast kit so fast that his hands look invisible – and he does it all whilst beaming at the audience and pulling silly faces. The group’s happiness is infectious and their stage banter is just as entertaining as their performance.
Set highlight The Leopard And The Lung sums up perfectly why this band is so special; the gentle piano coursing throughout the track is at odds with the thrumming, meaty rhythm section in a way that shouldn’t work so perfectly but really does. Every audience member is rooted to the spot in awe, but the raucous applause after every track finishes is a testament to the majesty of The Joy Formidable. They’re a band who never really got to play the arenas their sound warrants, but it doesn’t seem to matter to them at all – they make the tiny venue feel like a stadium regardless.