Devin Townsend Project with TesseracT and Leprous at Manchester Academy – 13 March 2017
There’s always a particular air of excitement surrounding Devin Townsend gigs, and tonight is no exception.
First up, we have Norwegians Leprous, who were originally the backing band for black metal pioneers Emperor. With such awesome credentials, I was hoping for something epic and I wasn’t disappointed. Lead vocalist Einar, who also plays keyboard, has a real haunting quality to his voice at times, and their show is received well by the audience. I’m looking forward to hearing more!
Next, we have UK prog band TesseracT. I’ve seen these guys perform at previous Devin gigs, so I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong! A change of lead singer (back to previous vocalist Daniel Tompkins) reveals a tighter, more passionate performance than my previous experience and I enjoyed it immensely.
But we’re all here for one reason; the man, the myth, the legend that is Devin Townsend. Flanked by Brian ‘Beav’ Waddell on bass, Dave Young on guitar, Mike St-Jean on keyboards and Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums, DTP creates a wall of sound both terrifying and sublime, covering every musical vibe from disgustingly heavy (“Planet of the Apes”) to hauntingly beautiful (an acoustic singalong to “Ih-Ah!”).
Appearing to rapturous cheers from the crowd, the first few songs of DTP’s set (“Rejoice,” “Night,” and “Stormbending”) are rattled off with enthusiastic abandon, before Devin shows his usual self-deprecating talent for on-stage banter. He is, quite simply, one of the most natural and hilarious frontmen I have ever had the pleasure of seeing, and it always plays a massive part of the Devin live experience. Add to that an incredible back catalogue of music and you are guaranteed a fabulous show. “Failure,” “Hyperdrive” and “Where We Belong” prompt sing-alongs from the audience, before DTP takes it down (or up?) a notch with the bone-crushingly heavy “Planet of the Apes.” This song is becoming a staple song of the DTP set, it’s almost Opeth-esque in its breadth and scope, and as close to death metal vs prog rock as you are ever going to get. “Ziltoid” goes home was next, followed by “Suicide” (which was a personal highlight for me being a huge fan of the album Accelerated Evolution), “Supercrush” and “March of the Poozers,” followed by the eternal crowd-pleaser of “Kingdom” (complete with audience participation!) and Devin leaves the stage (“But not really, we all know I’ll be back in a minute!”).
The encore started beautifully, a solo acoustic version of “Ih-Ah!” with lots of encouragement from Dev to get the crowd singing along. “Ih-Ah!” is absolutely a fan favourite which contrasts a lot with the general music press opinion – when the album Addicted was released in 2009, I read a lot of positive reviews on the album, but the majority of the press thought that it was the weakest song on the album. But the public disagrees, and it’s a major high of this gig overall. After this, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” (complete with candle-laden cake!) to Keyboard player Mike St-Jean, and DTP finished the set with “Higher,” a grandiose track from the new album Transcendence, which, although an odd choice for a set finisher (I was expecting an older fan favourite rather than a brand new track), worked stupendously well with the audience singing in choir. Devin clearly had the time of his life playing this set, and this rubbed off on the audience too. Amazing support bands, staggeringly tight and entertaining set from the DTP crew, and a very happy crowd!