My long suffering girlfriend thinks metal is ridiculous. It’s understandable — it’s not for everyone, it’s intentionally obtuse and she at least tolerates my hobby in small doses. All well and good but I can’t say I haven’t tried to show her how deep the rabbit hole really goes and, once in a blue moon, we make a bit of headway. One artist, in particular, that doesn’t incite instant derision is Devin Townsend, whether it be the subtle and delicate tones of ‘Feather‘ or the shuffling boogie of ‘Bad Devil‘. So naturally, I snapped up the chance to drag her along when Devin bought his Unplugged set to the unlikely destination of Bournemouth.

The Sound Circus is a hidden gem of a venue — small, intimate and, despite it’s unorthodox layout, a great place to host gigs like these. Everything fell into place nicely, the venue was packed but it didn’t feel busy, the atmosphere was incredibly chilled and the only real queue all night was the one to get in. With that in mind, the hour wait for Danny Cavanagh of Anathema was simply a minor inconvenience.

Armed only with a loop pedal and an acoustic guitar, Cavanagh opened with a soulful and heartfelt rendition of Iron Maiden‘s should’ve-been-a-balled ‘Wasted Years‘ before trawling through a set of Anathema classics, including a particularly potent version of ‘Flying‘ from A Natural Disaster. Making great use of the loop pedal as a makeshift drum machine, the entire performance flowed beautifully and was a great exercise in showing exactly how good a songwriter and musician Cavanagh really is. To close, a mass sing along (including the guitar solo) of Metallica‘s ‘Nothing Else Matters‘ set the tone for the night perfectly — calm, collected and still fun.

However, it was the one man army that everyone was dying to see. From the moment Townsend walked on stage, he was a whirlwind of jokes, personality and one-liners — taking time out to regale us with tales of making Epicloud, his obsession Man Vs. Food and even his love of standard heavy metal stage banter. Tracks like ‘Ih-Ah‘ and ‘Funeral‘ hung delicately in the air, keeping everyone completely entranced, where as ‘Juular‘ and ‘Life‘ garnered mass sing-along’s that you would only normally see from a drunken festival crowd. But the most astonishing thing about it? There was no boundary between artist and crowd — Townsend was responding to everything that happened, talking to everyone and even indulging in pretty much every request. Just due to people in the audience, we got a haunting version of ‘Coast‘, a countrified version of ‘Detox‘ from his Strapping Young Lad days and the final track was chosen in the only way it should be; by whoever put their hand up first.

Straight from the stage, he descended into the crowd before providing the soundtrack to the night with a 3 hour DJ set. However, a 5am start for work was ready to greet me the following morning so I wasn’t able to stay for too long and talk to others, instead I went straight for the one opinion that mattered:

That was pretty good! We should do stuff like this more often!

Yes. Yes we should.  I hear Aborted are playing nearby pretty soon…

– DL

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