Review: Devin Townsend – O2 Academy, Glasgow

“So how many of you is this your first gig after all this bullshit??” several hands are raised and many cheers are heard “Oh, really? Very nice, I hear the venue’s been open for a whole year” Devin Townsend is back and on fine form, but we’ll come to that later.

As Glasgow’s Academy slowly fills up a thick fog of dry ice smothers the stage making it nearly impossible to see. From out of the fog emerges Vola. Hailing from Denmark, with drummer Adam Janzi coming from Sweden, Vola dish out a melting pot of prog rock, industrial, crushing extreme metal with a dollop of shoegaze thrown in. For four guys onstage they sound huge but this may be down to their keys player Martin Werner and drummer Janzi with his mix of acoustic and electronic drum sounds. Bassist Nicolai Mogensen’s tone is massive and at times extremely overdriven adding to the industrial sound of the group. The band opens the set with “24 Lightyears” and it’s a nice way to ease into the night before they hit us with “Head Mounted Sideways” and then the Meshuggah influences become apparent. Vocalist/guitarist Asger Mygind has a voice similar to that of Mikael Akerfeldt or Jonas Renske and it’s highlighted during “Enter” as the rest of the band takes a break save for some light percussion. It’s a quieter moment full of beautiful ambient guitar. “Alien Shivers” is played much heavier than the album version and is definitely a reason to see them live. Finishing up with “Stray the Skies” it’s a swift 40-minute set that earnt them at least one more fan in me.

So with the appetiser finished it’s time for the main course. Dressed all in black Devin appears onstage with no introduction before the stage is even lit. He is visibly excited to be back on stage again and is grinning from ear to ear. Taking the time to chat to the audience about those difficult two years and learning how to adjust to being a rock star again “Oh yeah, I’m in a rock band, I have to project rock and roll goodness, for the whole world”. “ARE YOU READY TO FUCKIN’ ROCK!” “Are you ready to… act, like… Urgh words….” Speeches are not Devin’s forte but epic metal is. “My name’s Devin, I’m socially inept and I’ve had a fuck of a year”.

Once the greetings are out of the way the band rips into “Failure”. It serves as a palette cleanser with its meandering lead guitar reminiscent of Steve Vai before Dev pulls out the big guns and we’re hit with “Kingdom” The crowd becomes animated and joins in with Devin’s soaring vocals. Flanked by a smaller band than usual, gone are the synths, replaced by backing tapes (most likely to reduce the expense of touring a full production); we have Steve Platt on guitar, Dave Leech on bass, and Darby Todd on drums all also dressed in black. As expected from a Townsend show they are super tight and accurate to the millisecond. This show and the previous night’s show in Dublin are warmups for his two shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall billed as “The Greatest Sets Of My Life”, and this show is no exception. Many fan favorites are here including “Hyperdrive” and my personal favourite “Deadhead”. “By Your Command” from the Ziltoid record gets a big reaction and I even spotted a Ziltoid puppet in the crowd. Speaking of puppets somebody brought a huge plushy octopus to the show. When Devin sees it his eyes light up and he looks like an excited child “Oh fuck is that an octopus?? Amazing!”. The squishy octopi is launched onstage and Devin proceeds to wear it on his head for the remainder of “By Your Command”. “Life” is one of many uplifting moments in the show and a definite highlight.

A solo rendition of “Ih-Ah!” gives Devin a chance to break out the acoustic guitar for a sing-along. Maybe the crowd didn’t know the words and it doesn’t go quite to plan however it’s a beautiful tranquil song that fills every space of the academy. “Why” makes full use of the backing tracks as Devin ditches his guitar and takes the mic in his hands. If you don’t already know by now Devin has one hell of an incredible voice and this song feels like I’m at the opera, not a metal show. Strapping Young Lad fans rejoiced as Devin played two songs from his former extreme metal outfit. “Aftermath” appears earlier in the set but the show closer is the mighty “Love” which sees fans being spat over the railing as the crowd surfing reaches its climax. Maybe it’s the two years of covid, maybe it’s just that Devin is an awkward chap but he doesn’t get encores. Joking with the crowd about how long is an acceptable amount of time to walk off stage before coming back on he says “Is that enough? Should I go back again?” Rounding things off with the inspirational “Spirits Will Collide” and “Vampira” the show feels like a celebration of the human condition including all its faults with topics like life, death, love, heartbreak existential crisis, and coffee-loving alien invaders all being covered. What a fantastic night, Devin seems genuinely humbled to be back and the crowd echoes that sentiment.

Review – Colin Plumb

Devin players Royal Albert Hall on the 16th and 17th of April, tickets are available now here: https://myticket.co.uk/artists/devin-townsend

He then heads on tour with Dream Theater in mainland Europe beginning the 25th of April. Find the full list of upcoming dates at www.hevydevy.com

DEVIN TOWNSEND online:

http://www.hevydevy.com

http://www.facebook.com/dvntownsend

http://www.omerch.com

 https://twitter.com/dvntownsend

https://www.instagram.com/dvntownsend/

https://www.youtube.com/user/poopynuggeteer/featured

INSIDEOUTMUSIC online:

www.insideoutmusic.com

www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV

www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic

www.twitter.com/insideouteu

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