No matter how many times you attend The Waterfront, with its shady location, dim lighting and solemn atmosphere, it’s always a surprise that such a place can instantly become jovial and vibrant when the right band comes on, and this is certainly the case when Welsh outfit The Joy Formidable don the stage.
Frontwoman, the eternally cheerful Ritzy Bryan, simply oozes charisma as she saunters on stage, firstly asking with a cheeky grin if everyone is having a great night. The response is a mixture of enthusiastic “yes’s” and grunted “no’s”, some people clearly not too impressed by the support act We Are Animal, who play a solid yet average set. Ritzy, along with band members Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas waste no time in getting stuck into their set, fittingly starting with the exuberant This Ladder is Ours, the first track on their new album, Wolf’s Law. The crowd responds immediately, chanting the mantra-like chorus with wild abandon, transfixed by the sight of Ritzy bouncing like a fire cracker across the stage.
Within no time at all, a semi-serious mosh pit manifests itself at the front, youngsters and older rockers alike bouncing off each other in time to the rhythm of the hard and fast guitar playing. More subdued fans skirt around the ruckus but never cease their perpetual head banging and feet stamping.
The Joy Formidable have always been a small band with a big sound and new tracks like the East Asian influenced Maw Maw Song and hard-hitting Cholla are evidence of not only their musical progression after the brilliant album The Big Roar, but also of the fact that they can still manage to create fun and catchy tracks that also have a timeless quality to them.
A surprising favourite of the night is slower-paced song The Silent Treatment, a heart-breaking little number that evokes the desire to wave a lighter in the air in memory of relationships past. The mood soon picks up again as the band blast straight into others songs such as The Everlasting Spectrum of a Lie, constantly keeping the crowd on its toes and the atmosphere buzzing. They finish their set with their most well-known track, Whirring, the performance ending in pure rhythmic noise which is as much applause as ferocious instrument-bashing.
It’s a pleasure to see The Joy Formidable garnering the recognition they deserve, performing on shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and doing the festive circuit. They’ll likely soon be playing large arenas to match their stadium-sized sound but hopefully they won’t forget about good old Norwich and will once again grace us with their effervescent presence sometime soon.