REVIEW: The Joy Formidable
Tonight we find The Joy Formidable on one of their regular trips to London to play to their UK fans. With problems around those fans receiving a vinyl copy of most-recent album ‘Hitch’ (despite paying for it in February), the band have been smart enough to issue a Facebook update about the delay some 24 hours in advance of this gig. I guess this is why there was no vocal questioning of where the albums had got to, via ‘heckling’.
As they take the stage there’s a contrasting reaction in the audience – some glad to see them back and intent on having a good time; some seeming reserved and delaying judgment. It’s true that the once accessible and available band have relocated overseas more often for touring and recording but such is the UK-price of a band gaining US success (not to mention all of the band’s merchandise being priced in dollars on their website).
It’s clear that while the newer songs are well-received and sung-along with, the truly enthusiastic reactions are reserved for older songs like ‘Cradle’, ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ and ultimate throwback, ‘9669’. We get the salutary lesson that the song is about symmetry rather than oral sex and it’s apparent that explaining the context of songs, before they’re played, is now an integral part to the live set. Maybe that’s another requirement of playing to US audiences more often.
Another surprise seems to be the almost permanent slowing down of many songs. Whether it’s sheer coincidence that the BPM rate allows audiences to ‘bounce’ along at a reasonable pace is something I can only guess at but this almost slow-motion pace feels artificial and lacks the previous punch of live shows where everyone just went along with it, whatever the pace, and seemed to enjoy it more.
This feels like a petty judgment and a harsh criticism but that’s just how it felt. Maybe it was an off-night for me rather than the band but as the gap between main-set and encore takes some time to elapse, there is an increasing flow of people filing out of the door rather than waiting.
The truth of the matter is that, however tonight’s set was perceived, it remains the case that my journey home is punctuated by incessant and continual TJF earworms and this, more than anything else illustrates the value of this band.
As I leave, I pass a member of the band ‘Asylums’ and it reminds me what a truly frenetic experience live music can be – fulfilling, raucous and verging on violent. Tonight we got great songs, adapted speeds, a lot of between-song chatter and the usual ‘chumminess’; it’s just that as this band advance and grow, they seem to be leaving their spontaneity behind and I, for one would like to see some of that return in the promised semi-acoustic gigs that will grace us in 2017.
We will hold our breath. It’s what they’ve caused us to do before. Let’s hope they do again.