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The thing that really bugs me about fashion-sponsored gigs like this (Clarks Originals being the sponsor here) is that the atmosphere at most of the shows just doesn’t feel right. That aside, I have been a big fan of The Joy Formidable for some time now. They are a shining example of how to make a success of a band, with a work hard attitude and the wherewithal to treat everyone with a certain degree of gratitude.

It was slightly weird walking into the Old Bridewell Police station, to be confronted by what looked like a set stolen from a pantomime – complete with fake fire place, fake grass and plastic logs. Despite the odd setting, it did generate a perfect atmosphere for an acoustic set, so cue a completely stripped down set from The Joy Formidable (before the complete rock out show). The acoustic setting gave people the perfect chance to hear exactly what Ritzy and Rhydian are vocally capable of. Ritzy’s vocals sounded positively Tanya Donally-ish.

It’s a pity that the silence continued while The Joy Formidable played their main set. This, for me, really does display the apathy shown towards bands at these events and it hacks me off. Luckily the fashionista waifs and strays were joined by some hardy Joy Formidable fans – people who have seen them as many times as I have or more, this being something like my 13th time. I have witnessed them really grow since they first played Bristol in 2008, supporting White Lies at the Thekla, where they played them completely off the stage. From that point on, I was a Joy Formidable fan.

Playing songs from The Big Roar and A Balloon Called Happiness, they displayed the anthemic nature they have become renowned for as they kicked into The Ever Changing Spectrum of The Lie. As a unit, the band really hold their own together really well, possibly even the tightest live band ever. Ritzy does her wide-eyed best in holding peoples attention as they blast through Popinjay. I Dont Want To See You Like This still has a wistful air to it, in both formats as it is one of the songs that sits easily in amongst both sets, along with Whirring and several other songs, which shows the band has the inventive ability and confidence to switch from electric and acoustic.
They have very much nailed the indie song with big choruses and rifled hooks as they have an almost breathless presence, with which they sound just as comfortable on big stages as they do on the small intimate surroundings, which gives them a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Encouraging fans and neutrals alike to sing along caused me to lose control of myself.

I must apologise to those in front of and behind for my over-excitement but there is something about The Joy Formidable that gives me a huge energy, like a kid locked in a sweet shop. There is just something so moreish about them and goddamn infectious. This, of course, was encouraged by Rhydian with his deep groving bass, whilst the drums clattered rhythmic patterns. Each chorus was dealt with a huge amount of whoomph, when they really kick in and boy do they know how to write a chorus, especially with Cradle, where the band has created the sort of song that toys with the audience building to a well worked climax as the guitars sound almost rapier like to these ears!

Leaving the stage with The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade with its huge synth intro bouncing around the audience, you could see the smiles on their faces widen with the warm reaction. One that looks set to continue in 2012.

Words: Jeffrey Johns