The Joy Formidable's Ritzy Bryan has the biggest eyes in rock music. She opens her lids wide in a mixture of menace, dare, excitement and, of course, joy. All these emotions and impulses made, as stares at her audience, simply by arching and hiding her eyebrows beneath her jagged, bleach blond bangs. This says nothing of her and her bandmates' mercurial qualities, an explosive mixture of spinning and thrash. It is a little thing, Ritzy Bryan's high eyebrows and her piercing blue eyes, but for a band so open on stage, so engaging with their fans and so giving of their energy, the evening in Providence was about letting their audience in, and without doing the whole pedantic, windows-to-the-soul thing, we see her, and more importantly, she sees us.
The Joy Formidable, a band we've seen in a range of venues from Brooklyn basements to opening for Passion Pit at Terminal 5, opened their set at the Met in Providence with "Greyhounds In The Slips", a song about getting out of town, before ramming the latest album stunner, "Magnifying Glass" into the first five rows of the audience. It is a Monday night in a second-rate northeastern city, and there are maybe 50 people crowding the front - it is not New York by a mile - but Ritzy and Rhydian run into each other and motor around the stage like this is the most important show of their year. This is their charm and their gift. In this moment, as they move to play "Austere", they are the best band in the world.
They play "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade" and the massive "Cradle" before answering a request from the front row. A girl, maybe of high school age, had asked for the quieter "9669" and Ritzy looks directly at her, big eyes again, and says, "This is for you." It is a simple and winning moment. The band closes their set with "Bouy" and a prolonged and feedback-heavy version of "Whirring," the latter of which ends with Rhydian throwing his bass and Ritzy ripping the strings off her guitar. It is a weekday night in Providence and the band will have to restring their instruments tomorrow before the tour goes on and they do all this again; build, destroy, build again. The lyrics of "Greatest Light" nearly still ringing in the rafters, "This dream is in a telescope now." Eyes open, with magnification, audience and band look right at each other, closer than ever.
Listen :: The Joy Formidable - "Cradle"