Welsh trio The Joy Formidable rocked The Vogue Friday night with beautiful noise during the last stop of their 2011 tour.
In front of a backdrop of a Kraken-esque creature, the band opened the show - their second in Indy - with "A Heavy Abacus." Lead singer Ritzy Bryan wielded a guitar half her size while weaving strands of honeyed vocals through an impressive wall of sound.
In most of their songs, the band is content to go nowhere fast, investing in the buildup of layers of sound and eventual eruption. In the slow "The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade," melodic tides provided a chance to sing along while marveling at Matt Thomas's pummeling double-time kick drums.
The Joy Formidable relished creating massive sound in shorter songs, too, as in "The Magnifying Glass," which got some aggressiveness out in a nice, concise blast.
At the end of global tours, some bands just want to go home. If The Joy Formidable wanted that, they didn't show it. Showering the audience with words of gratitude repeatedly, the band launched into their closing number, "Whirring," (check out a live performance below) as if they had enough energy for another tour. The Joy Formidable didn't play a proper encore but ended the show by properly killing the final song on the
last show of their tour.
At one point, Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd both ended up on the floor, forcing their instruments to caterwaul. When Ritzy got back up, she ran over to a large Taiko (or maybe it was a gong) and started beating it as if she were trying to put a hole in it. She didn't, and the instrument couldn't be heard above the others' din, but it didn't matter - the band got the point across that they're an impressively massive three-piece, both on record and in person.
The Joy Formidable put openers Sleeper Agent to shame, making them seem like a bunch of kids playing in their parents' basement. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it would be hard for any band to shine when followed by such a headliner.
But Sleeper Agent, a six-piece band from Bowling Green, Ky., put up a scrappy fight, featuring some nice interplay between the female and male singers. Some of the songs would be fun music for top-down summer cruising, though Alex Kandel sounded better when she was snarling than when she was trying to hold a note. The mix was also off: Her vox were just too loud compared to the rest of the band, who were tight, especially when they let loose on punkier songs. Slower songs like "That's My Baby" didn't add anything to the livelier tracks.
Editor's note: The original version of this story mistakenly mentioned that The Joy Formidable may not have played an encore because of an 11 p.m. end time for performing acts. Management has informed us that The Vogue does not have such a policy. We apologize for the error.