*Live Review written by guest writer Tom Kerrigan*
Visiting your favourite restaurant… trying to reinvent their signature dish at home.
Watching a film at the IMAX… putting on the DVD at home on a laptop.
Experiencing The Joy Formidable live… listening to them a week later on a pair of headphones.
Some things just don’t have the clout to match up to the original.
Although it felt like a while since The Joy Formidable were last in Manchester, I couldn’t believe finding out it’s been three full years since they were here last. That night at The Ritz, lead singer Ritzy talked extensively about the venue’s spring-loaded dance floor, determined to see the crowd bouncier than usual; it was impossible not to deliver with the performance served up.
This latest tour has been a different animal; a smaller, cuter, probably religious animal, but an animal nonetheless. The venues are cosier, drummer Matt is gongless and a few live favourites like ‘Austere’ and ‘Magnifying Glass’ have been left out for some softer selections. The band’s third studio album, ‘Hitch’, is out in less than a month and they warmed up for a monster tour of North & South America with some visits to mini-venues around the UK, including The Deaf Institute.
For the first outing of the year, it was a very strong showing from the trio, who worked hard to lift a relatively flat audience. It can happen when such dynamic bands retreat to smaller locations that half the audience don’t know how to act. They’re so used to heavily participating, then all of a sudden there are only 300 instead of 2,300 and it feels a bit like singing on stage instead of in amongst a crowd.
Befitting an audience of this size, The Joy Formidable went back to their 2009 EP ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ in this set, but made sure to show off some new stuff as well. ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’, the first single from Hitch, didn’t really do it for me when I first heard it, sadly. But like a lot of their music, it did sound bloody good live. Support act Laura J. Martin joined in on ‘Passerby’, with what can only be described as some rock-flute. Fantastic fun that one – echoes of ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus.
The Deaf Institute is a fantastic setting and it was refreshing to see a band use the surroundings to their advantage instead of going through the motions of a setlist. Ritzy and multi-instrumentalist Rhydian played part of the encore on the old music hall steps at the back of the room. A stirring new track, ‘The Brook’, held the crowd transfixed before they headed back to the stage for a classic thrashing finish. TJF have form for this kind of bravado, and it remains a welcome addition to any set.
They’ve been extensively touring during their break from the UK and unsurprisingly have carved out quite a reputation for themselves worldwide. Supporting the Foo Fighters in years gone by has meant they’re always welcome at the plethora of festivals they appear at in the US and Europe. Even in their absence, they’ve managed to put out some superb music while writing Hitch. Their Twin Peaks theme is well worth a look and I’m hoping it makes an appearance on an extended version of the album.
TJF are touring the UK again in May and will look to get more of Hitch out on display. I would strongly advise against missing this incredibly fun three-piece, who will make a serious amount more noise back on the bigger stage.