A conflicted performance from JOY. @ The Foundry, 15th November

Despite being notoriously bad at estimating set lists, I am a little surprised to turn up to The Foundry at 9pm to find it almost entirely empty. After asking around, I find out the first opener for the show is about to start, but that the star of the evening, JOY., wouldn’t be on until around 10.45. Resolved to a long night, I settle into a corner and childishly suck on The Foundry’s most recent alcoholic experiment: sweet liqueur and fizzy stuff in a plastic ziplock pouch a la Caprisun. I feel about four years old.

The first opening act, Joe Mungovan, takes the stage unassumingly. A beardy, laid-back guy with an aesthetically pleasing face and an equally pleasing guitar, Joe quickly wins over the small audience with passionate, minimalist guitar work and a voice that can only be described as spectacular. Matt Corby-esuqe in style and manner, Mungovan is utterly charming as he squints into the room, throws back his head, and lets his rich, powerful, aching vocals echo through the bar. Appearing both confident and humble, he puts a gorgeous spin on MGMT‘s Electric Feel, weaving the cover into a set of varied but equally powerful originals. It’s quite a start to the evening.

After a bit of a break, second opener Owen Rabbit takes the stage with a menagerie of synths, pedals, laptops, and other electronic gadgetry. And before describing what exactly he did with it all, I’d like to formally apologise to Owen and readers for a previous review of Safia, for which Mr Rabbit opened, when I called him overly emotional and underwhelming. I was wrong. In an intimate venue with good sound, Owen Rabbit is a quiet genius. His soundscapes weave colours and patterns so smoothly and slickly that it’s hard to believe he’s putting it all together live in front of us. His voice blends a huskiness akin to Chet Faker with raw lyricism similar to Frightened Rabbit and he delights the audience with his playful approach to soundscaping, using nicknacks from a box covered in duck wallpaper to create fascinating sounds and tracks. It’s a joy to see.

Finally, JOY. takes to the stage. She wears a Calvin Klein crop top, black tracksuit pants, a hoodie, and gold bling. Launching into Crazy For You, bass fills the room as a drummer and keyboardist recreate the clever layering of the recording; yet, when JOY. begins her verse, her soft, ethereal voice seems lost in all the sound. She herself seems slightly lost, as if she wandered onstage in a haze, wearing an image she’s not sure she embodies. The audience senses a little tension; they nod along but can’t fully relax until she does. The next couple of songs follow suit: JOY. gesturing and mouthing passionately but somehow failing to absorb the space allotted to her, keeping back the audience instead of letting them in. She sends the band away for a couple of songs which she DJs herself, including a clever and refreshing cover of Rihanna‘s Bitch Betta Have My Money. Adding a sweet yet edgy touch to the track, we catch a glimpse of the creativity behind her stunning EP, ODE. She admits her nervousness and stumbles over a lyric, but the audience enjoys the track, happy to have a small peek at what seems like the real JOY.

Heads or Tails is the turning point – sadly towards the end of the show. The stripped back, minimal track allows JOY.‘s voice to shine, demonstrating her subtle vocal twists and turns. She stands still on stage and finally lets the audience in. They fall in love. The result is breathtaking.

The show ends on a high with a remastered, stripped back version of Captured, which shows off JOY.‘s flawless production skills. She seems at ease, her voice spectacular, her image less refined. It seems to me a quick vision of what she could or will be: an artist unashamedly talented and unafraid to open up. The crowd funnels away from a striving, yearning performance that is desperate to grow and filled with potential.

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