Stepping out of the spotlight can be a strategy fraught with risk and contractual backlash for musicians, but for The Joy Formidable – who have spent the last twelve months in the Welsh town of Mold, recording third album Hitch – returning to Oslo’s stage after a three year break was the epitome of the track they opened with: ‘The Greatest Light The Greatest Shade’.
‘The Greatest Light’ came from the trio’s evident comradery – Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd, and Matt Thomas have been playing together for almost a decade – their musical intuition easily illuminates any venue, regardless of size. ‘The Greatest Shade’ could have been a negative reaction from fans regarding new material; but the joyous applause which accompanied the set’s opening riff confirmed they were thrilled to be back in the band’s presence, adoring songs both new and old. Hackney’s Oslo was one of five intimate venues the band chose to play on their brief but highly anticipated UK February tour.
Tracks which made the set-list included ‘Ostrich’, taken from EP, A Balloon Called Moaning (2009), and there were effortless renditions of ‘Silent Treatment’ and titular track ‘Wolf’s Law’, taken from the 2013 album of the same name. Fans were also treated to a track from the 2014 under-the-radar Aruthrol vinyl releases; written and performed in Welsh, the bands Mother-tongue. ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ – taken from new album Hitch (released on 25th March) – was debuted midway through the set, before Ritzy joked “We’re going to play a song that’s not on the album now… ‘cos we’re a bunch of twats”. She invited support act Laura J Martin onstage to accompany them during new song ‘Passer By’ (Laura is a supporting musician/vocalist on the new record). Fans thought they’d seen a plethora of The Joy Formidable’s new material, but the best was yet to come.
“This next bit only works if you’re really quiet” cautioned Ritzy. The crowd’s excited chatter reduced to a murmur of disbelief as Ritzy and Rhydian broke the fourth wall and made their way in to the audience, acoustic guitars in hand. They stood shoulder to shoulder* with lucky onlookers and played new track ‘The Brook’ – a raw, emotionally liberating moment for all involved. Returning to their spots on the stage, the trio launched in to ‘The Leopard And The Lung’. Ritzy was energy incarnate; wide-eyed and wielding her guitar, she performed with enviable vitality and focus. Rhydian’s charismatic vocals and impeccably timed keyboard playing combined with Matt’s raw, snappy percussion to create a stunning listening experience. If the band had chosen to leave the stage and not return for an encore, not a whisper of complaint would have been uttered.
Fortunately, they returned to smash out the riotous ‘Cradle’ and superb ‘The Ever Changing Spectrum Of A Lie’ – which ignited a brief but boisterous mosh.”We’ll see you in May!” promised Ritzy as she left the stage, followed by Rhydian and Matt. Fans breathed a sigh of relief – The Joy Formidable are officially back – and their patience had been rewarded with a knockout performance from the alt-rock trio.
*They stopped right in front of my sister & I. It took every ounce of self-control not to scream with excitement.