On the 13th April the enigmatic Devin Townsend celebrated the 25th year of his career by playing arguably his biggest show to date at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. With two sets of Devin’s unique progressive metal in a beautifully unique setting to match, the set was perfect, with humour, musicianship and sincerity in equal measure. With a crystal clear sound and an often breathtaking performance Devin and his band more than lived up to the occasion.
For the first set the band played the album Dark Matters from 2014’s Z2 in full, the concept album sequel to Ziltoid the Omniscient, the album about the eponymous intergalactic warmongering puppet. Before coming on the screens behind the stage showed humorous videos with metal’s favourite alien being before the band came on to start the show. The music of Dark Matters may not be the best in the Devin canon but they put on a performance to really bring it to life, with the crystal clear sound of the Albert Hall really adding a lot to the show. With Dominique Lenore Persi as a special guest to reprise her role as the album’s War Princess Blattaria she put on a stunning performance in War Princess and March of the Poozers with powerful vocals and a foreboding stage presence. And whether the band played the brilliantly energetic headbanger Death Ray the heavy Ziltoidian Empire, with terrific drumming from Ryan Van Poederooyen, or the crazy Wandering Eyethey enthralled throughout, with humour and fun in spades with a fantastic choir, costumed Poozers and Ziltoid himself making an appearance.
It was the second By Request set which really made the night though, playing songs the fans themselves had requested through a Facebook poll. Devin seemed even more on his element here, cracking jokes in his trademark style instead of just sticking to the narrative. Opening with the brilliantly heavy Namaste with Ryan once again drumming with intense energy and the powerful Night played on the most recent tour, they then moved through a fantastic set of lesser played material. Earth Dayfrom Terria was a highlight, a nine minute prog epic, with Devin’s vocals superb, backed up by a great choir, and on Supercrush he showed he didn’t need Anneke Van Giersbergen on the song and sung his heart out on a brilliant pop metal song. And perhaps a first for the Royal Albert Hall, Devin got the whole crowd doing jazz hands to the upbeat Lucky Animals before getting those in the standing section square dancing to the “awkward prog country” of Heatwave.
It was a thirty five minute trip to his first solo album, and still regarded by many as one of his best to date, the prog metal masterpiece Ocean Machine which was the ultimate high point of the night. Playing the three long songs Funeral, Bastard, and The Death of Music he really upped the ante, the latter having never been played before the warm up show in Bournemouth two nights before. While some may see Devin as a humorous mad prog wizard, it’s on those songs that he really shows not only what a fantastic musician and song writer he is, but how much emotion he puts into what it does, delivering a performance as stirringly heartfelt as it was musically stunning. It was the perfect setting and occurrence for a unique performance of songs taking him write back to the start of his solo career. As an encore he performed Universal Flame, with the VIP ticket holders on the stage along with the choir, even getting his son on stage to sing along in a rousing finale.
Devin Townsend is one of metal’s most unique and enigmatic musicians and on this historic stage he and his band played what has to go down as one of the best shows of his career. A special night, thankfully immortalised in an upcoming DVD release.