In the modern rock music world, it is rare to find a female front person who is also an instrumentalist, let alone a talented one. But there are exceptions to every rule, and in this case, the exception is The Joy Formidable’s Ritzy Bryan.
Not only does the UK-dwelling chanteuse possess an amazing set of pipes, but she can also wail on guitar. As part of a trio, she’s in charge of both rhythm and lead melodies, and she executes both with ease (plus, she looks good doing it). On Wednesday night, she led her band through an explosive performance at Los Angeles’ kitschy Mayan Theater. The all-ages show was packed with fans spanning generations, all eager to see their beloved dream pop troupe. As soon as the band stepped on stage, the audience erupted in elated cheer. “Ritzy, I love you,” boomed through all corners of the large venue.
The three-piece dove right into its music, beginning the set with “A Heavy Abacus,” one of the many singles off the group’s 2011 debut full-length, A Big Roar. Its music, which is relatively clean and mellow on the album, translated to a tremendous wall of sound live. Rhydian Dafydd ferociously slapped his bass, Matt Thomas feverishly struck his drums, and Ritzy twirled and flailed as she strummed her guitar, transforming pop tunes into thrashing rock songs, and inciting a large mosh pit to form in the middle of the floor.
Having essentially been living on tour for the past few years, The Joy Formidable perfected the art of the live performance. Ritzy thoughtfully addressed the crowd on several occasions, asking how everyone was doing and expressing the band’s strong affinity for Los Angeles, the city where it mixed its first album. Several times Rhydian mounted the stage’s edge, gesturing for the crowd to get louder as he and Ritzy stood back to back, clawing at their instruments. They put on a spectacle, and the audience loved every second of it.
So much so that when the band said goodnight and came back for its encore, the crowd gushed just as loud (if not louder) than the first time the British rockers inhabited the stage. Contrary to what Ritzy told me in our interview, the band treated its fans to a new song off its upcoming sophomore release. The track, entitled “Silent Treatment,” was much more stripped down than any of the band’s previous material. Ritzy sang and Rhydian strummed an acoustic guitar. There was no percussion. After the beautiful interlude, the trio jumped back into its loud set, ending the night with a raucous rendition of, “Whirring,” which featured a spectacular harpist juxtaposed with a wailing instrumental bridge and she throwing her guitar into the drum kit at the end of the song.The members of The Joy Formidable are entertainers. They were meant for the stage, and once they release their forthcoming album, I have a feeling that stage is going to get much bigger.