Review by Chris Stones for MPM
I’ve been on this planet for half a century and somehow Devin Townsend passed me by – or rather, I passed him by. It was only at Bloodstock in 2021 where I found myself immersed in an audio visual thing of splendour that had me jolted into taking notice.
So – when a show was announced for the Royal Albert Hall no less, I jumped at the chance to buy a ticket for what would surely be something special.
Motivated by musician friends saying “how do you not know about Devin?”, feeling ashamed, responding with a shrug and that burning embarrassment that comes from losing at musical top trumps I thought what the hell? A Sunday night in the big smoke would settle me though I thought, as I’d have at least some kudos for the next conversation.
Mr Townsend has played the RAH before and very recently in fact, as a later date on the preceding night had been released somewhere along the way.
Punters had come from far and wide – a German fan stopping to chat in our hotel telling us that he had been at the show the night before and that the sets were to be different.
I felt the hollow feeling in my stomach when he told me the Sunday set would be deep cuts and little-heard material. Dearie me I thought – I have to review a show of material I don’t know. What could possibly go wrong.
The show sparked into life at the hands of Norwegian wonders Leprous who filled the room with what could best be described as an operatic canon.
Einar Solberg’s vocal range is something to be admired and the band’s compositions seemed to fit the grandeur of the room. Weinroth-Browne’s cello added something rich to the sound and again – looked perfectly natural against the backdrop of the 150 year old grand organ.
Admittedly, I watch the crowd during gigs to get a feel for a show and at one point, where the time signature was frankly mathematical – I did see people nodding appreciatively whilst stroking their chins. Very prog but also very cool – you should give them a listen.
Such is Devin’s popularity amongst the chin stroking glitterati of music that I knew that what would be played would be glorious regardless of its popularity and I wasn’t wrong.
Opener Seventh Wave oozed power and the industrial rhythm contrasting with Townsend’s trademark canyon-filling vocals planted a flag in the room for the night ahead. The band are familiar – having been his companions at Bloodstock the year before. Devon is quick to acknowledge how hard they have worked to learn this set in a short space of time. Steve Platt, James Leach and Darby Todd – take a bow!
Dialling back with Stormbending – a Devon Townsend Project track, it was clear the tracks weren’t going to be B sides, instead tracks that Devin himself wanted to air. The lack of any screens was a slight disappointment given the production I had seen before but the musical dexterity more than made up for this.
Much of the set would draw from 1997 album Ocean Machine but there was a gasp in the darkest corners of the room when the man announced his debut performance of Life Is All Dynamics. Having never played this song live before, you wouldn’t know given the sublime delivery.
Sadly, some tech issues forced the restart of Funeral but these moments always break down the barrier between artist and audience (as if Devin needed to). It’s noteworthy that Townsend is one of the most engaging artists at his level and I genuinely think he cares what his fanbase feel at his shows.
The taxi queue outside the show was an interesting mix of those in awe at the material they had witnessed, and those who were disappointed to have missed the ‘hits’ of the night before.
My feet are firmly in both camps as who couldn’t acknowledge the masterclass we had seen and the fact that the material drew from such a diverse and biblical set of works.
Would I have liked to have recognised a track or two – yes, but as I was a novice when I walked in, I’ve now got a better top trumps hand. Game on.
Set List –
Life is All Dynamics
The Death of Music
Thing Beyond Things
Photography by Eric Duvet – Do not Copy are use photos without permission.