Anyone who reads our humble ramblings on even a semi-frequent basis will know of our love for Devin Townsend. I don’t think there’s one of us on the staff who doesn’t have at least a passing interest in him, and so when it was announced that his Devin Townsend Project would be playing all four albums of the now complete series in a run of special dates in London, I knew that attendance of at least one was compulsory. Being that Deconstruction is by far and away my favourite of the four, this date at the University of London Union was always going to be the one.
The extra treat was that support was to come from Norway’s own Shining, whose stunning 2010 release Blackjazz made a number of our top ten lists, and I had it on excellent authority that they are extremely tight live.
I’ve been to a fair few shows in my time, and it really shows when an artist puts that little extra bit of effort into the staging and performance aspect of the show. I’m not talking about the several thousand chin-ups Greg Puciato does to prepare for climbing the lighting rigs, or making sure your sweep is angled just right so that you look deep and mysterious whilst at the same time are able to at least kind of see your fretboard. No, I’m talking about a massive fuck-off cheeseburger, custom Ziltoid flags and campaign hats, and a hundred or so balloons bearing the words “ZILTOID FOR PRESIDENT”
I’m getting ahead of myself though.
This isn’t the first time Shining have supported Devin, and it seems that he holds a special place in his heart for them, as this isn’t the first time they’ve opened for him (in London, even). Accordingly, the floor was pretty packed with those eager to be near the front for Devy, and when the band came out onto the stage and frontman Jørgen Munkeby picked up his saxophone a large cheer went out around the floor.
Given the complex and somewhat abrasive nature of Shining’s ‘blackjazz’ – especially in comparison with Devin’s work – it’s perhaps not surprising that a few people didn’t connect with it. The guy in front of me in particular looked round a couple of times, and although I initially thought his question of “do you like this?” indicated he was enjoying it, I soon learned that he was not. Not at all.
Perhaps you’ll forgive him this trespass. Shining, despite being ridiculously tight, aren’t for everyone I know. Blackjazz live is loud, chaotic and, if you don’t know the music, difficult to follow rhythmically. I think the number of times everyone thought their set ended and they started playing again sort of annoyed some people too, but it was ultimately pretty funny.
There was just enough time to meander around a bit, find a refill and return to my spot before the main event. A sea of Ziltoid plushies started to appear around me, and the massive cheer that went up as the band took the stage indicated that everyone was about as up for this performance as they would have been for free cake and blowjobs – that is to say, almost orgasmically so.
The performance was framed by a simple set-up. Ziltoid appeared on a screen and announced his candidacy for president of the universe 2012. We shouted his name. He was pleased. “Praise The Lowered” commenced!
What proceeded was honestly one of the best shows I have ever been to. The album loses absolutely none of its potency in a live setting – particularly with the band in question, which was comprised of the Devin Townsend Project band’s Dave Young on guitar, his brother Mike Young on bass, the incredibly entertaining and mindblowing Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork on drums, and a choir of four people to provide backing – but best of all were the extra touches Devin had incorporated into the show. Ziltoid’s introduction wasn’t the only piece of video footage; for each of the obviously absent guest musicians’ spots, Devin had created muppets to fill the void, each characteristically akin to its real life compatriot. Tommy Rogers stood behind a keyboard; Greg Puciato’s went nuts, throwing itself about the place; Joe Duplantier was a sad blue whale with a propellor hat – a nod to his environmentalism, and the long-delayed Sea Shepherd EP.
The highlight of the evening for me was “The Mighty Masturbator“, long my favourite song, pulled off with great aplomb. As the carnival section of the song broke, a net filled with red, white and black balloons bearing the slogan ‘ZILTOID FOR PRESIDENT’ were released over the crowd. The band donned over-sized top hats in Ziltoids colours, whilst flags and glowsticks were passed around. The whole thing carried a great feeling of jubilation, and the crowd absolutely loved it. It’s not often that people let go and just enjoy themselves like that in Britain, and it was certainly something I’ll savour for a long time.
Also of note was the giant fucking cheeseburger you see above, lowered at the appropriate point during “Deconstruction“, hand-crafted by a member of Devin’s crew.
The evening was ultimately rounded off with an encore of Punky Brüster songs, which I had never heard before, nor even knew existed as part of Devin’s catalogue.
Since this and the other three DTP shows in London, Devin has announced that the Saturday before Halloween next year, London will play host to The Retinal Circus:
Here’s what Devy had to say about this spectacle:
This last week was probably THE defining moment in my life, let alone my career in many ways. I’ve had some intense gigs and experiences in music before, but all pale in comparison to the 4 sold out shows in London where we played all four DTP records, with four different bands, night after night.
Everyone worked incredibly hard, and each of us gave 100% to pull it off, bands, players, management, label, and audience. It was awesome!
So here’s the next big gig: Next October 27th, at the amazing Roundhouse in London, We’re putting on the most definitive ‘Devin’ show to date. A culmination of my ENTIRE career with a star line up and full supporting cast.
The show is being called ‘The Retinal Circus’, (named after an old Vancouver club in the 60’s, famous for psychedelic rock shows) and will be more than just a musical performance… there will be an art exhibition, actors, Ziltoid, stilt walkers, fire breathers…you name it. My goal has always been to make SHOWS, and this is the first opportunity I have been given to do a high-end production that puts it all together! It’s the closest Saturday to Halloween, and the goal is to make something amazing that we can all enjoy…details to come…psychedelic!
My career has been full of amazing musicians, and there will be plenty of them present at this show, and I’ll be playing music that has never been attempted due to the size of the songs and the need for certain things.
It will be recorded for a DVD of course, and it’s going to be a pretty intense experience… we have a year to make it perfect, so I just wanted to give you some hints! The VIP package will be available with special goodies among other exclusive things.
Anyways, I’m back to work here…I hope to see you there, I’m beyond excited to have this opportunity, we’re not taking it lightly!”
I guess if he calls those shows the defining moment in his career then anything I can say is ultimately meaningless. If you can in any way get down to see The Retinal Circus, DO IT. I’ll be there. Maybe we can hang.
[Pics courtesy of Head Case over at The Frontline. Go check out his own account.]