Show Review – The Joy Formidable, 3/23/12, 20th Century Theater, Cincinnati, OH


Written by Bill Whiting

Photos by Bernice Whiting

The Joy Formidable’s return to Cincinnati at the 20th Century Theater on March 23 was a highly anticipated event, and the London, England based trio did not disappoint. Currently in the middle of a sold out tour that will have them playing at Bonnaroo, drummer Matt Thomas, bassist Rhydian Dafydd along with guitarist and lead singer Ritzy Bryan entered from the side of the 20th Century stage, and launched into a mesmerizing take on “A Heavy Abacus” from their 2011 Atlantic Records album, The Big Roar. The Joy Formidable has built it’s esteemed reputation by word of mouth based on it’s extraordinary live performances, and the positive buzz from their Midpoint Music Festival appearance last fall brought a huge gathering to the Oakley theater on March 23. Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas had fun with the crowd, joking about the escalating heat level inside as they bashed through punishing instrumental turns on the punk pop gems, “Cradle” and “Austere.” Dafydd’s fluid bass lines cemented the running thread that tied together the group’s uniquely pounding modern rock on the anthems, “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade” and the hauntingly ethereal “Buoy.” Bryan’s charismatic presence energized the 20th Century’s packed floor as she jumped from side to side, rolled around with her guitar on the stage, and banged her own decorated gong. Thomas’ full fledged bursts of percussion shook the interior walls of the building, and The Joy Formidable’s rattle and hum could be heard outside the facilty as well. The ensemble coalesced around the stunning chords of the majestic improvisational piece, “Whirring.” As they stirred together a potent psychedelic brew of feedback and distortion, each note peaked until The Joy Formidable were in a self realized state of musical nirvana, whipping their listeners into a blurring frenzy that reached to the back of the bar. Altogether exhilarating and liberating, the three artists that make up The Joy Formidable put on a performance for the ages at the 20th Century on March 23.