Joy Formidable frontwoman Ritzy Bryan performs at Alive at Five on Thursday, June 16. — Photo by Michael Allen.
Welsh alternative rock band The Joy Formidable stopped in Albany on June 16 to perform at the weekly Alive at 5 concert, its members bringing their talent for turning loud, shrieking sounds into seamlessly flowing melodies with them.
The band, led by Ritzy Bryan, played for over an hour at Tricentennial Park in downtown Albany. In classic Joy Formidable fashion, Bryan bounced around stage back and forth to her fellow band members, never missing a lyric or a note on her guitar. Bryan, who is small in stature but huge in stage presence, frequently addressed her audience in a way that was so happy and genuine it seemed as if the entire crowd was her best friend.
Rhydian Dafydd played his bass as if his life depended on it, often sinking onto the floor of the stage or going head to head with Bryan as she swung her own guitar around. At times, Dafydd was so singularly focused on his instrument that it seemed like the only thing in the world that existed for him.
However, as audience oriented as Bryan was, drummer Matthew James Thomas stole the show. Thomas’ percussion work is integral to the band’s sound and serves as the backbone to most of its songs, but to see him in action live was so superb it was almost intimidating. He banged out exhausting solos frequently, and at points it seemed as if he was not following any formula for any song, opting instead to allow his talent as a drummer to go rampant and produce melodies that were brand new to both him and the audience. During the final moments of the show, Thomas poured his entire soul into a solo that was so loud, fluid, and perfectly crafted it left concert-goers looking completely stunned.
The set list jumped around as much as Bryan did. Instead of focusing on its two-month-old album “Hitch,” the band played old favorites like “Maw Maw Song” from its 2013 album “Wolf’s Law” and “Cradle” from its 2011 album “The Big Roar.” They did play their new song “The Last Thing on My Mind” towards the end of the show to the obvious excitement of fans. “The Last Thing on My Mind,” which ranks as one of the band’s longer songs, was the perfect way to display its true talent not just as individual musicians, but also as a group. While Bryan’s voice and the drums turned towards the soft side in the song, the guitars functioned in a world of their own during at least two solo parts, but quickly came back into check as Bryan entered the chorus.
Part of what makes this band unique is its ability to experiment with individual sounds in a way that might not fit together well under a lesser group of musicians. By using loud, screaming notes and vocals, and melodies that might be cringe-worthy under other circumstances, The Joy Formidable is able to distinguish itself as one of the kind, and its method of controlled musical chaos was nothing short of a hit in Albany.