The last time Devin Townsend and his talented band were on Irish soil, the Canadian maestro finished the show with half the crowd at Dublin’s The Academy onstage for “Bend it like Bender”. It was a celebratory ending and, judging by the crowd, a night nobody could forget. Flash forward two years and undoubtedly many of the same faces are in attendance tonight to see what tricks Hevy Devy pulls out of the bag this time around. Since his last visit, Townsend’s phenomenal creative run has continued on with last year’s Epicloud; a massive sounding record that condensed the four distinct sonic dimensions explored during his four-part series under The Devin Townsend Project. It’s been the most prolific period of his career and the former Strapping Young Lad leader is now more popular than ever, the scope of his music reaching out past metal into alt rock and pop pastures as evidenced by the diverse crowd tonight. Goths, metal-heads, bearded gentlemen, and those who look like they may have stepped inside The Academy by accident have all gathered together to see what unfolds.
Unfortunately they have to wait until the irritating For The Imperium finish their set. The Helsinki four-piece, who sound like a confused mix of Protest the Hero and Glassjaw, spend too much time trying to be funny between each song in an effort to disguise how uninteresting their music is. The band incorporate a multitude of metal styles that often jar, and their focus on being quirky comes across as contrived, especially when Ville Suorsa downs his guitar to do some press-ups—an exercise he clearly hasn’t tried in a while. And although vocalist Hakim Hietikko does engage the crowd at times, his clean vocals sound stretched past the point of comfort. It’s a forgettable start considering the previous night, Swedish mindbenders Meshuggah provided the support and polyrhythmic paralysis to a baying crowd at Brixton, London’s O2 Academy.
For the Imperium
However, all is forgiven as soon as Devin Townsend and his band of guitarist David Young, bassist Brian Waddell, and drummer Ryan van Poederooyen arrive bedecked in matching hockey uniforms to the weighty strains of “Truth”, which receives a flurry of cheers that ripple across the ample crowd. Right from the thunderous “Regulator” which follows, it becomes clear that tonight is not going to be a lavish display of the pageantry and spectacle associated with Townsend’s recent live shows. Tonight is about the heavier side of his solo music, decorated by Townsend’s unique wit and stage presence.
Grimacing one minute, smiling and pulling his signature goofy faces the next, Townsend is at his entertaining best tonight. He kisses a hand puppet of Ziltoid during “Ziltoid The Omniscient”, instigates a mass side-to-side wave from the crowd, and poses for photos with the security guards during “By Your Command”. At the song’s conclusion, he calls for chants of “Slayer” and “Jeff Hanneman” (The legendary Slayer guitarist passed away from liver failure a couple of days before) and the crowd lap it all up. Following on from post-metal majesty of “Deadhead” off 2003’s Accelerated Evolution he shouts, “Enough of this miserable shit,” and from here the band is all about having fun. “Where We Belong” signals a mass sing-along; the first of the Epicloud songs aired turns into quite the anthem in a living setting. The sprawling progressive metal of “Planet of the Apes”—complete with video-screen footage of puppets aping Meshuggah and Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me—showcases the band’s technical prowess and gets the crowd moving. And at the song’s mid-point, Townsend licks a mic-stand while peeling off an impressive solo. This moment just sums up his genius: the man is a born entertainer and a world-class musician who can get people to smile while head-banging, and it’s impossible not to do both and look sane on this night.
The Devin Townsend Project
Sure, the live vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen are missed—especially during “Supercrush!”—but by throwing around the masterful riffs of “Kingdom” and “Juular” and keeping away from gentler songs like “Angel” and “Divine”, the band swap beauty with bludgeon. The comedic banter between these songs never takes away from the music, in fact when Townsend queries what everyone is going to be do for the rest of the night and retorts, “Have a super hot curry and piss out your ass? Well, that’s what I’m going to do,” the hilarity of it all further fires up the crowd ahead of a smashing rendition of “Liberation”. The encore of “More!”—with its “shitty Queens of the Stone Age-type riffs”—and the huge finale of “Grace” end the night on a new high as the band rides out on a wave of adoration. And although tonight has been without stage invasions, choirs, big name support acts, or live vocals from Anneke, Devin Townsend and company have still delivered a memorable show that has left the cheering Dublin crowd with an equal dose of tinnitus and smile-ache. What more could you want?
The Devin Townsend Project