Live: The Joy Formidable / The People Versus / Other Half

Epic Studios, Norwich September 27, 2023

by Niki Jones

Norwich’s very own Other Half kick off proceedings with exuberant style. Each support act this evening feels like a different side of the headline act, and the side this trio brings is the noisy one.

Jagged post-hardcore tussles with vivacious alt rock like the bastard child of Mclusky and The Hold Steady.

Other Half: Alfie Adams and Sophie Porter (Picture: Niki Jones)
Other Half: Alfie Adams and Sophie Porter (Picture: Niki Jones)

In between songs, frontman Cal Hudson talks at 100mph, almost apologetic for taking up precious time when we could be seeing other bands and introducing songs with such punk affirmations as “Don’t be bad men” and “Thanks for giving a shit about stuff”.

Ably backed by drummer Alfie Adams and bassist / second vocalist Sophie Porter, during such songs as the hypnotic Trance State and the soaring Slab Thick he beams at his band mates with a smile that’s joyous and bordering on psychotic.

The 100mph Cal Hudson (Picture: Niki Jones)
The 100mph Cal Hudson (Picture: Niki Jones)

If you were in one of Norwich’s best bands at the moment, you’d be smiling, too.

Oxford sextet The People Versus are the melodic yang to Other Half’s ying. A heady mix of bombastic indie rock with more than a helping of the smooth funk of 70s yacht rock, they are irresistibly melodic, in no small part thanks to the incredible voice of vocalist Alice Edwards.

The People Versus are irresistibly melodic (Picture: Niki Jones)
The People Versus are irresistibly melodic (Picture: Niki Jones)

Songs including Witch and the LGBTQ anthem Lonely Teen see guitars and cellos interplay with walls of vocal harmonies.

Intense without ever being overbearing, mellifluous without ever being twee, they hold a beguiling balance of light and shade.

Strings to their bow: The People Versus (Picture: Niki Jones)
Strings to their bow: The People Versus (Picture: Niki Jones)

The Joy Formidable have been making the world a more melodic place since 2007.

Never quite reaching the heights of success that perhaps many thought they deserved on the back of their early releases, they have still managed to forge their own unique career path over five (soon to be six) incredibly well received albums.

Rhydian Dafydd drives the groove (Picture: Niki Jones)
Rhydian Dafydd drives the groove (Picture: Niki Jones)

Tonight they’re not shying away from any of it with the opening four songs of the night coming from four different releases.

They hit the deck running with Caught On A Breeze from the 2018 opus AAARTH. Guitar wails and vocals soar while bassist Rhydian Dafydd – part Lemmy, part Peter Hook – (over)drives the groove.

The Joy Formidable: Matthew Thomas (Picture: Niki Jones)
The Joy Formidable: Matthew Thomas (Picture: Niki Jones)

The intensity ramps up with an explosive version of Sevier, drummer Matthew Thomas (unusually, at stage left) beating the hell out of his kit while Ritzy Bryan stands front and centre with a burning intensity in her eyes while she coaxes enormous sounds from her guitar.

It’s one of those gigs that could so easily turn into a song-by-song account, and there’s no dead weight this evening, from the Welsh language-led Twrch Leuad from their music club to old favourites such as The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade.

A burning intensity: Ritzy Bryan (Picture: Niki Jones)
A burning intensity: Ritzy Bryan (Picture: Niki Jones)

There are highlights, of course. The absolutely gargantuan version of Whirring is almost overwhelming in its enormity while the sultry and excellent new song Share My Heat bodes well for their next album.

The encore of Little Blimp, Wolf’s Law and Left Too Soon sees actual dancing among the audience and big smiles on the band’s faces.

There’s no dead weight from The Joy Formidable (Picture: Niki Jones)
There’s no dead weight from The Joy Formidable (Picture: Niki Jones)

The Joy Formidable might not quite be the superstars they deserve to be but, if tonight is anything to go by, they show no signs of stopping.

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