Devin Townsend can hardly stay away from our shores – he’s here so often he could probably apply for dual citizenship at this point. Following his spectacular show at the Royal Albert Hall in April this year, he’s returned for an extensive acoustic tour, and on Saturday played at the Trinity Centre in Bristol. The history of acoustic shows has probably never seen anything as mad as Devin Townsend‘s performance last weekend.
It shows the total lack of advertisement of any support that when Irishman Tony Wright took the stage he was met with a shout of “Who are you?” But the surprise of an opener in VerseChorusVerse turned out to be a pleasant one, passing his half hour on stage with a mixture of humorous stories told with an Irish charm and an energetic acoustic performance. With impassioned vocals and great bluesy songs, the highlights of which being Yet to Break and Sixteen Tons, he eventually won over an initially skeptical crowd and gave a great show.
Devin has never been one to simply come out on stage and play songs, and in Saturday’s intimate setting, he introduced the show as trying to give an insight into the process and mindset of a “mid-tier prog/metal” musician. He moves between making the audience cry with laughter with his hilarious banter, and showing his vulnerabilities and anxious side in a set strewn with stories and jokes between, and even during songs. An improvisation and chat about the song writing process leads on to a Devy classic, showing his beautiful vocals on Let it Roll, with a guitar tone laced with a seemingly never-ending sustain. The rest of the shows on this tour were in sit-down churches but a stand-up Bristollian crowd filled with metal-heads were an atypically rowdy bunch for an acoustic tour, but kept quiet for the soft tones of Ocean Machine’s Funeral to fill the venue in a tangible atmospheric haze, stripped down to bare bones with Devin at his soulful, sensitive best. It’s not long before his comedic self comes flowing through though in an acoustic version of Strapping Young Lad’s Love?, gurning and joking through a hilarious performance, fully self aware of the preposterousness of stripping down of one of the heaviest songs to grace his catalogue. A rowdy crowd needs some sing along songs, with Ih-Ah and Juular providing the perfect opportunity for the crowd to belt out between fits of laughter at his jokes, between some of his quieter numbers in the effervescent Hyperdrive and the magic prog of Deep Peace, improvising with aplomb without the necessary frets his acoustic to play the famous solo.
Eventually between the interjections of a rowdy crowd and Devin’s crazy stories the setlist broke down and he started taking requests, despite claiming “I’ve written 300 songs and I can play about twelve”. An acoustic show doesn’t stop suggestions from the heavier end of the catalog such as SYL’s Shitstorm – prompting a story about using his cat’s litter tray so he didn’t have to go upstairs during the recording of the Alien classic, and an equally silly suggestion of Addicted delivering gut-busting laughs – performing the chorus with alto and baritone vocals in a show descended into chaos.
With March of the Poozers he managed to reclaim a semblance of control over the show, and fan favourite Life was one of the highlights of the set, with the whole crowd singing the solo which by his own admission on acoustic “doesn’t sound epic at all” in an inclusive and heart warming, if ridiculous moment of the show. The upbeat atmosphere of the show had a near perfect conclusion in Devin Townsend Band track, Slow me Down, were it not for an encore of oftentimes set closer – the insane metal track Bad Devil.
Life, love, death, sex, spirituality, insecurities – and poop were just a few of the subjects Devin covered on with his on stage-ramblings during the show. But it just shows Devin as a completely human character with no ounce of rock-star delusion, spending time to talk to, sign items and take photos with everyone who waited around after. Devin’s eschews religion, favouring his own spiritual beliefs – but the cult of the enigmatic Townsend grows ever stronger.