Review: The Joy Formidable and A Place to Bury Strangers at the Bluebird Theater, 3/17/12

Tom Murphy
The Joy Formidable at The Bluebird Theater

With a sample of spoken words as an intro, one of the moments in the set where The Joy Formidable shined the brightest was during "Buoy." From its moody, murky beginning to its steady, rapid progression into something altogether more bombastic and expansive, the song had one of the most beautiful builds between the noisiest sections of the tune that can be heard on its album.

Tom Murphy
The Joy Formidable at The Bluebird Theater

The stage had been set up with a replica of a lighthouse and a steering wheel for a boat adorned Ritzy Bryan's mike stand (read our interview with Bryan.) After a bit of a production with the lowering of the lights and the band coming in almost under cover of darkness, the Joy Formidable started its performance with "A Heavy Abacus."

Even as a trio, the Joy Formidable created huge sounds with a palpable enthusiasm worthy of its name, met by a reaction from the crowd to match. Yes, it was a set of essentially pop songs given a dramatic flair, but you could tell that this band was still very excited to play its material in front of an audience. The trio's songs had shifting dynamics, but its members didn't seem to let up on the output of energy.

Bryan's sometimes wide-eyed vocal delivery and stage manner made it seem like she was riding an emotional wave that cycled through her as well as Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas. Each seemed to put so much passion into playing their respective instruments that, at times, it looked like someone or something else was really in control.

The set consisted of most of the material from The Big Roar, and when the trio played the final song of its main set, "The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade," people cheered uproariously in recognition. That would have been the end, but the band figured the crowd had been nice enough that it would get a sample of its newly completed next record with a performance of "Silent Treatment," with Dafydd on acoustic guitar and Bryan on electric.

Tom Murphy
The Joy Formidable at The Bluebird Theater

Based on the way the two interacted with the crowd, down to shaking as many hands as humanly possible on the way by, they could tell they were very much appreciated and wanted to return they favor they found from the people who showed up. The show ended with "Whirring," and featured on harp a woman named Stephanie, who played a gorgeous, stripped-down interpretation of the song and then handed off the song to the band, which took the music and ran with it.

The band extended the end of "Whirring" into a frenzy of sound that ended with Dafydd and Bryan kneeled down to manipulate the tones with their respective pedals. At the very end, Bryan bounced her guitar off the stage to elicit even more feedback and after a few bounces, she casually tossed the guitar aside.


The Joy Formidable
Bluebird Theater - 3/17/12
Denver, CO

01. A Heavy Abacus
02. I Don't Want To See You Like This
03. Cradle*
04. The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie
05. Austere
06. The Magnifying Glass
07. Buoy
08. Endtapes
09. Greyhound In the Slips
10. The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade


11. Silent Treatment
12. Whirring

* There may have been a song before this

Page down to read about A Place to Bury Strangers' opening set, followed by the setlist and Critic's Notebook.

Location Info


Bluebird Theater

3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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