Devin Townsend is one of the few people left in the current music scene who are able to laugh at themselves. His wacky, theatrical content is often miles from the average person’s idea of live music, but he knows it. In a contrasting evening, fans were lucky enough to catch a one-off performance of the album Ocean Machine: Biomech in full at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.
TesseracT started the evening with a bang, stopping for one moment to ask “I know there are a lot of Devin Townsend fans, who is here for us?” with a surprisingly roaring response from the whole crowd. A strong, polished set showing real musicianship – “Dystopia” as a distinctively riotous opening track.
TesseracT are a British progressive metal band from Milton Keynes, England. A band with two full-length albums under their belt, under a subgenre of music greatly influenced by bands such as Meshuggah, they certainly need no mentoring in how to put on a show. Finishing their set off with “Of Mind – Nocturne”, with assured, strong drumming – a sophisticated end to their set.
A short wait for Devin to appear, fans were eager to experience the Ocean Machine: Biomech live twenty years after its release. As “Seventh Wave” begins to play, The Devin Townsend Project were immediately mesmerising and masterful.
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Stripped back sounds, far from the mighty Ziltoid the Omniscient – his fictional alter ego who helps him to showcase his music in a more theatrical sense – a different type of performance this time.
Any Devin Townsend fans will know he had voiced concerned nerves on Twitter prior to this performance – “A part of me wishes I could play what I’m confident with in this big old venue tonight…I’m out of my comfort zone…”. Humble words from a man so easily grabbing the stage bull by the horns, and into powerful favourites like “Life” and “Night”.
Producing a balanced mixture of new-age, progressive metal cross-bred with hard rock is their trademark, and they certainly had no problem sharing it with London for the evening. It was easy to feel incredibly lucky to hear such an impressively layered album played live twenty years after release – this is not something that every artist out there would be able to do with such well-rounded and polished technique.
It was refreshing to hear tracks like “Sister” – a very slow-starting, graceful track with Devin sounding as quiet as many will ever have heard him, just a man and his guitar. There’s something very special about moments like these, less narrative to the songs but more poetry and fluidity.
“Bastard” was another reminder of Devin’s utter strength in transporting us all back twenty years, a reminder of his expansive talents and thoughtful arrangements. The bouncing, aggressive drumming from Ryan Van Poederooyen is the perfect back-drop to the reverbing and cerebral guitars.
By the time the moment came for the encore, there was a resounding sense of surprise that we had already reached that point in the evening. There is something special about an artist who can make you feel comfortable through a long and layered setlist.
Treating us to “Stormbending” and “Higher” to round off the evening, it was a wonder the man himself was able to walk off the stage without wanting more from his loyal, energetic crowd. You could taste the gratitude from the audience and feel Devin’s heart burst from backstage at the response for such a special evening. He may look like Voldemort, but he has a heart of gold and a strange world of creativity in his mind which must be experienced live.