It should come as no surprise that we here at Tuonela Magazine love us some Devin Townsend, be it a good day or a terrible one. So when the newest tour in support of “Lightwork“ was announced, we were naturally among the first in line to be there! The show took place at the Helsinki Kulttuuritalo on February 23rd, 2023.
It still seems like Devin Townsend could, to quote Zoolander, “take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple fish hooks in it, and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings” these days. There is such an obscene love for Devin that both the Helsinki and Tampere shows had sold out, with Oulu reporting a near-sold-out show as well, and the merch line was so long it was going into the back rooms where the coatroom is located.
Naturally, when the show started, Devin came out rambling about how weird it is to be on tour after spending the past 6 months doing home renovations, starting the show off with “Lightworker” off the near-eponymous album, of which this tour is of course in support. This was followed by a clear fan favorite, “Kingdom,” as all of the fists on the floor immediately went flying into the air. After this, he brought out an instrument that he claims to have no idea how to play: a theremin. He promised to do a bad job of it in “Dimensions” – playing with it like a total goober and generally being hilarious – and then complained about how utterly rank his scent was getting under the lights. More shenanigans ensued and he put down his guitar for “Why?,” likely so he could focus on all that falsetto.
Once “Why?” wrapped up, he talked about how hard it is to get back into socializing and doing the “rock star thing,” like knowing how the setlist should go. He then scared himself with his own stench again and someone in the crowd shouted at him, which he misheard as “butter up,” then told us “butter up, bitches” for a song from “Terria”: “The Fluke.” This taste of classic Devin-in-a-blazer-shredding was a nice treat, as I’m not too familiar with that album, as was “Deadhead,” which got the crowd’s fists up and headbanging (incidentally, it also is celebrating an anniversary next month, so awesome that it’s included).
“Deep Peace” offered a little energy respite, which also allowed for a nice display of subtle prowess from his band du jour. “Heartbreaker” and “Spirits Will Collide” were both excellent inclusions, while “Truth” was a nice throwback to “Transcendence,” before the simultaneous highest and lowest point of the night: “Bad Devil”! How did this song gain such status? Well, for being one of the most activating songs in Devin‘s entire discography, I was horrified to be stuck in the seats watching this guy ask for a dance party and get – in a sold out show – about twenty-five people to actually start moving. He then said that he thought this was a dance party and where was the dance, begging because he was desperate. Here, the crowd actually started to move properly, but when he asked them to do the opposite – that is, to be stoic as fuck and not move a muscle – everyone save perhaps three listened and stood perfectly still. Unfortunately, poor Devin didn’t realize that this is Finland and therefore forgot to tell the crowd to move again, so for the most upbeat and energetic song of the night, the crowd was utterly limp. Don’t believe me? The whole thing is on YouTube. It makes you wonder how confused bands get when they come to Finland, as the crowds cheer like crazy but never move. Even worse, I don’t think he’s played that song in Finland for nearly 10 years… it was hard to not take a flying leap out of the seats onto the crowd just to shake things up, good grief.
Well, despite my incessant griping about the Finnish crowds, Devin promised to leave for 2 minutes and then come back, but didn’t really go anywhere, rather chatting more and playing “Call of the Void” from the new album. It’s an interesting choice for a first encore, but since there aren’t really any high-energy bangers on “Lightwork,” this actually made as much sense as anything. The chatter was about how much he hates the toilet paper on the boats from Stockholm, as – after eating about 40 lbs of food at the buffet – he said it was like wiping an axe wound. Naturally, Devin thanked everyone for coming out and ranted about how much he loves people – kind of coming full circle from the beginning of the show, where he had been talking about loving people as a group, but not as individuals (which was fine because he wasn’t wearing his glasses and can’t actually see anyone to make a connection anyways) – and thus very appropriately ended the night with an old STRAPPING YOUNG LAD fan-favorite, “Love.”
If there was one particularly big, glaring salty point in the evening, it was actually after the show ended. I mentioned before how monstrous the merch line had been, so it was only natural that the merch line would continue to be huge after the show, which is when those who were unconvinced before were surely convinced that they needed to throw some more money at Devin for doing such an amazing job. However, with still a good thirty or more people in the line, the merch crew simply shut things down without warning. This was baffling for a few reasons: first and foremost, bands are constantly complaining that touring doesn’t make enough money and they need more merch sales. As someone who casually works selling merch, I am aware that prices go up because both the merch team and the venue (ugh) take a cut of the sales… but if that’s the case, both the venue and the merch team should have allowed this to continue until the line ran out. For a show that didn’t even go on that late, why on earth did they actively choose to both piss off fans with money to spend and lose money for themselves? What’s really worse was that the woman running merch was an absolute bitch about it. If she had said, “hey, sorry everyone, but we’re out of time and the venue needs us to wrap things up, we need to pack up our truck,” that would have been one thing, but instead, this rank woman just rudely shouted “WE’RE CLOSED NOW!” with no explanation. Frankly, I’m glad I didn’t get a shirt so that she wouldn’t get a cut of the money I would have paid. What a horrible way to run your business and a really disappointing attitude to drag down the mood of the remaining concert-goers after such an amazing show.
Well, despite my incessant griping about the limpness of Finnish crowds and the assholery of the merch lady, this was actually a very spectacular show otherwise, with some awesome cuts from Devin Townsend‘s rather extensive discography and a really lovely selection of new material. If you had been a bit hesitant to come to this show because “Lightwork” was a more ambient album, I’m pleased to say that it’s a whole lot heavier live and should still tickle your fancy. Besides, there’s something just so unabashedly human about Devin and his love for what he does that you just can’t walk away from one of his shows without feeling a little bit of hope for humanity. I, for one, felt my deep misanthropy crack from his genuine goodness. So, thanks, fellow homelander, for an awesome night, and we’ll definitely be seeing you again next time you’re in town!
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Laureline Tilkin
- The Fluke
- Deep Peace
- Spirits Will Collide
- Bad Devil
- Call of the Void (encore)
- Love (encore)