The Joy Formidable at Electric Ballroom

25th March 2010 – 5.31 pm

Playing to London's Electric Ballroom in Camden it's The Joy Formidable's largest gig yet, and Ritzy is clearly thrilled to be here. But she is trying hard to hide her smile, keeping a cool demeanour for all the cameras pointing at her as the first song of the set comes thundering out of the speakers. The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade is a blistering track to start with, and I am reminded just how much I enjoy live music, and music in general, when it can be this good.

Rhyds welcomes everyone to the gig and hopes we're all having a good time, which we are, before Ritzy introduces Cradle, suggesting that the set list hasn't changed a great deal over the months. But that's just fine, as albums don't tend to change their order and they get better with time too. And even if the set list hasn't changed, some songs have been rehearsed to be extended further, creating an amazingly evocative experience. The whole audience is energised, and where the support act could hardly get some hand-clapping enthusiasm going it comes spontaneously now. But then the support had the relatively limp band name Fun, whereas this is the rather more emphatic The Joy Formidable.

Austere and The Last Drop are played from A Balloon Called Moaning, but there are problems when it comes to Ostrich from the same EP, as Ritzy's guitar keeps cutting out during the song. 'Was anyone at our Garage gig?', she asks, recalling how it ended with her amp blowing up and needing to finish the final song sans guitar, 'this is round two'. Whilst Ritzy and the band's technician try to fix the problem with the pedals, wiring, or amplifier, Ritzy asks drummer Matt to 'play the 'something's fucked-up' interval music', which he cheerfully does, drumming along to the theme from Gremlins keyed in from his sampler. The problem with the guitar seems to be fixed, and we are treated to The Magnifying Glass and Anemone.

The fabulous Whirring is next, but the electrical problems clearly haven't been fixed, as the fuzzy guitar audibly cuts in and out unpredictably. Ritzy is understandably getting really frustrated and stops the song half-way through. Apologising, she calls for a five-minute break for them to fix the problem and to bear with them whilst they do. It's like an encore break between songs. And it looks like taking the time works, the wiring problem being resolved and The Joy Formidable return to play Whirring in its entirety. The band then treats us to a preview of their new single Popinjay, from their forthcoming debut album they finished recording only recently, and the new song is received well.

Greyhound in the Slips is played as an encore, after which Ritzy once again thanks us all for coming down and being patient with the guitar problems. Despite the frustrations, the band have had an excellent time at the Electric Ballroom, and so have I. The Joy Formidable make amazing music and are fabulous to see live. And they haven't quite finished, as they gives us While the Flies as a parting song. The exuberance of band and audience combine to encourage some crowd surfing, a few bodies being carried to the sadly sanitised gap between the audience and stage. But Ritzy doesn't need protecting from us. She jumps down from the stage, discards her guitar, and climbs in to the audience to crowd surf herself, before returning to the stage and finishing the song. This is what live music, and The Joy Formidable, is all about.

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