Under their Ralph Steadman-designed logo, it is no wonder that The Joy Formidable played with a little chaos Monday night at The Roxy.
The show, first on their U.S. tour in support of Hitch, began with the illumination of alternating watchtower-like spotlights before the band usurped immediate command of the crowd with the appropriately titled “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade.” During “Cradle,” which was only the second song, Rhiannon Ritzy Bryan sang like an uncaged Joanna Newsom; similarly pixie, but with a boatload more rock attitude.
The spirit of new track (and b-side) “Passerby” celebrated the bravery of “carving your own path in life,” or so said Bryan introducing the song. This disclosure underscored the overflowing confidence in their veteran showmanship. “Wolf’s Law,” the title track from their 2013 album, followed and evolved from a slightly tender intro into something eventually akin to a ska jam.
Seeing The Joy Formidable live provides ample moments of wailing guitar, crashing drums, and cocky cresendos, all hit right on the screws. Suffice to say, over the course of an hour and a half, the show barely let up.
One moment when it did was when the trio took a turn towards the sentimental, as the band from North Wales played “Y Garreg Ateb.” The rare performance of a song in Welch, whose title is loosely translated as “The Stone Solution,” felt particularly refreshing amidst all things America on the Sunset Strip.
When the powerful Maw Maw Song closed the set, it was as if Jack White had written “Seven Nation Army” under the skies of Tintern Abbey. Replete with gong strikes, the lyrics seemed to suggest that this was actually true: “Here now the wind it blows high/ Just cover your mouth for a colorful lie/ Sing free and hold up the sun/ The belly won’t rest until the day is done now.”
Bryan and bandmate Rhydian Dafydd returned not to the stage, but to middle of the audience to play a truly acoustic (no microphones or amps) version of new song, “The Brook.” Although such encore performances seem ubiquitous these days, it is hard to deny the feel of when a beloved band descends to play among the people, or more specifically, when Bryan nakedly cries out her lament, “I’m in love with what could’ve been.”
Another new one, “Liana,” continued the encore, at first with a slow burn. Following a solemn piano intro, a sneaky bassline passed the baton to those crashing drums, before returning in a dirty strut fit for a Primus show. The onomatopoetic “Whirring,” proved to be The Joy Formidable’s final kill: noisey, discretely melodic, and life-affirming.
Manchester’s Everything Everything started the evening with an exuberant, playful set that was accentuated by the band members’ matching fire engine red jackets and shirts. Their palette cobbled together the scattered sounds of many genres, proving them worthy of their name. Not only were they everything, they were that twice over.
An easy highlight was the one-two of “No Reptiles” and “Distant Past,” both off of their latest release Get to Heaven. Their pop sensibility revealed a fleeting yet recurring edge, perhaps borrowed a bit from fellow countrymen Foals, Royal Blood or even Alt-J. But the result was certainly fun, leaving one to wonder what other pieces of their patchwork quilt sound would be shared in a full set.
The Joy Formidable
The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
I Don’t Want To See You Like This
The Last Thing On My Mind
Y Garreg Ateb
Maw Maw Song
This Ladder Is Ours
Get to Heaven
Spring Sun Winter Dread