The DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT returned to Helsinki nearly one year after their last show following the release of their latest album, the long-awaited follow-up to Ziltoid the Omniscient. The show was at The Circus on March 22nd, 2015, and Bear was impatiently waiting to see him again after her first real experience last year. Read our interview with Devin here and check out the full gallery here.
You may have known me last year as the crazy person who had known about Devin Townsend for approximately 10 years but never really listened to him. I promise you, it’s not like that anymore. After the show last March, I developed a very special love for my fellow Canadian and the plethora of styles he dabbles in. So it goes without saying that last year, I was a Devin amateur. Now, I am an eager Devin apprentice, and I have been waiting very impatiently to tell you exactly what that means for my concert-going experience a year later!
We showed up in time to see PERIPHERY’s full set after having given them a listen on Spotify prior to the show and deciding that they were actually pretty good. Kind of like THE USED meets LOSTPROPHETS, only more metal, and so much more so live (and better, I have to say). For once, I actually enjoyed seeing the opener! I liked the singer’s faded pink hair, and I liked the way he spoke to the crowd. The crowd seemed to be pretty familiar with them, because I caught a few people singing along to “stop bleeding on the inside” in “Alpha.” And for their last song, the singer asked them to make a big circle pit, picking one person in the crowd to start jogging in circles and then told anyone else interested to join him. Near the end, he jumped into the crowd and one of the guitarists dangled his guitar over the crowd so they could touch it while the song was still going. They were a pleasant surprise, and I’ll be trying to listen to more of them in the future.
The other reason I showed up so early was to make sure that I could see the advance playing of “shit Devin shows on the screen before the gig.” This is an ongoing thing that the Devin professionals are familiar with, but I am not so much, as a mere apprentice. This time it was a slideshow of a few of Devin’s most ridiculous photos Photoshopped onto other photos for an even more ridiculous effect. Where? Dune worms, Darth Vader, a thumb, a hairless cat, his own arms and legs, Britney Spears’ face (in the up-skirt shot), ET… you get the picture. And before the show started, the first video and a half from ZTV started to play. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest you head over to YouTube and check them out, like now. About 5 minutes before the official start time of 21:30, the video began to slowly get phased out by the DTP logo and a pulsating beat. That was something else, incidentally – I’ve been to many late shows in my day, but I don’t think I’ve ever once seen a show that got started early. Then again, Devin Townsend is perhaps one of the chillest post-show people out there, who is apparently 100% more likely to take a long, soothing bath than party in any way after a gig. I assume he likes to end the show as early as possible.
Devin appeared on stage with a totally fucking awesome guitar with glowing red Z lights on it. He was already thanking the crowd for coming out in the middle of the first song, “Truth,” a totally different first-song selection, from the solo Devin Townsend album, Infinity. To this day, I’m still not sure how I feel about it as an opening track, but it’s definitely cool that he changed the set up quite a bit from the last several shows. I later learned that this was a lot of the same “on-request” set he would play at the Royal Albert later on.
After letting us have a taste of the new Ziltoid and another solo track, he explained the drastic change in the setlist: “I’ve been doing this for so long and we keep playing the same set when we come to Helsinki, so I tried to sort of change it up.” Even though I missed out on all but one of those prior shows where he played all of my favorite songs, I still have to appreciate that he did that – it’s a rare thing for bands to drop their regular live tracks for something totally new. He then said that some of the songs had never even been played before, such as “Night” from Ocean Machine, which was up next. “Romantic old guy heavy metal… a song for my wife,” as he called it. There was a huge cry of joy for this one, which is no surprise because Ocean Machine is, in spite of being one of his oldest albums outside of SYL, perhaps still one of the favorites.
We were graced with a few more songs from his vast discography, including another new track from the Sky Blue half of the new album, which was totally killer but not the song I would’ve picked from that album. After a few more songs he thanked the crowd again and said that he thought he had used up all his rock poses for the night. “I threw a couple too many in the first one and kind of blew my hip out, but fuck it, you know what I mean? Because the night is young and so am I… in my mind.” This led into “Addicted!” from the album of the same name, which is a really strong live track and perhaps one of the best new additions to the setlist.
And then… “March of the Poozers.” I had literally been waiting to see this song live since the moment I first heard it. It may have suffered slightly from lurking illnesses on the horizon, but it was still unbelievable and the fact that he had a video for it playing on the background with Poozers in their giant mechs stomping around the surface of earth was just fantastic. I would have come to the show just for this song and any fault I find with the setlist was made up for by its inclusion.
I am always a big fan of Devin’s speeches between (and occasionally during) the songs. At one point he discussed the ups and downs of touring and how sometimes you have “these incredibly high peaks” and then other days you feel like “fuck, I can’t do this anymore.” But you come around and see familiar faces, reinforcing what you do. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a hit, it doesn’t matter if it sells, doesn’t matter because there’s people here.” He said that tours have their highlights, but this tour had been particularly good, like with the food backstage: “We can go back and eat until we vomit!” and a fan on stage so every time he does his heavy metal spit it comes back and hits him in the face! He thanked his amazing crew and gave shout-outs to the openers, Shining and Periphery.
He then talked about the “arm thing” where people wave an arm or two slowly back and forth, and how cheesy it is, but also that it’s part of the show. “If you’re here, you’re cheesy,” he says, and that metal is not the “hip genre” that we may think it is, and we had to get it all out now. “It’s a new time for me! I’ve burned the suits!” So instead of the arm wave, he asked the crowd for JAZZ HANDS! It was essential that the next song have crowd participation, so that whenever he sang, “Animals, animals, and we’re lucky,” the crowd would do jazz hands at “lucky.” It was one of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen and simultaneously so much fun, and it made Lucky Animals a far better live track than it is on the album.
He went on after Lucky Animals, saying “What a fun job, holy crap. When you’re a professional musician, they pay you to travel, not to play shows. Because playing shows is fucking awesome and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. But traveling, that’s a bit of a bitch, right?” But he was far enough away from home that he could say “fuckin’” a lot and went on a rather Canadian-sounding ramble before just shouting “Life” and starting to play. Of all the songs that he chose to keep on the set, I was glad “Life” was it. I think it’s by far one of his best songs (as hard as it is to choose) and it’s likewise really powerful live.
After finishing the gig with “Christeen,” he hardly stayed off stage before coming back out to discuss the nonsense that is the fake encore. He thanked the crowd for helping out with the vocals and went on to say, “I really, really, really love music. I think it’s just a beautiful thing. It’s like an invisible force.” He also talked about struggling with the heavy metal thing – wanting to be yourself, but it doesn’t work because you’re just a regular person who takes out the cat shit and taking the kids to school. It’s not a show. But if you over-exaggerate, you come off as a total jackass because it’s not in your character. It’s the same with encores. Of course they pretend to leave but they come back – they always come back. He then mentioned how great the Casualties gig was a few months back because the crowd was so attentive and since his voice was messed up on this night, maybe the crowd could help him out singing “Ih-Ah.” He asked for lighters to come up, and said, “Voice, don’t fail me now!” He managed to get through the high parts without exploding, complete with some extra-special falsetto a couple times. The final song of the night was, of course, Kingdom, and was a good n’ heavy way to close out the night, and they spent a good deal of time shaking hands with the crowd and taking pictures from the stage, bowing, and giving out picks, drumsticks, and setlists.
I love seeing the light-hearted side of metal, the less serious business, the fun stuff, and Devin definitely brings that out in his shows. This time, I have to say I wasn’t overly excited about the setlist, partly because it was so short (only an hour or so), but mainly because it was missing so many great tracks off the newest album(s). “Fallout,” “Universal Flame,” “Silent Militia”… all of these have amazing potential as live tracks and we didn’t get any of them, and that’s just off the Sky Blue half of the album. So even though I did at least get to hear “March of the Poozers,” I can’t deny that I wanted more. Z2 was my favorite album of last year for good reason. To be fair though, Devin mentioned in an interview that he just wanted to do something different, and you can’t fault a guy for that. It’s his music and he’s allowed to play what he wants.
Ignoring that though, it was still a great gig. Devin is just so connected to what he’s doing and to the crowd that even if he was half asleep and sick, his shows would still be worth checking out. I can’t wait to see him come back. Maybe we’ll get that Ocean Machine tour, or something acoustic with Anneke van Giersbergen. Either way, I can’t wait to see what his upcoming symphony is like, and what it’ll be like live. So this may not have been the pinnacle of his gigs, but I’ll still be first in line for them any time he comes back.
1. Truth (Devin Townsend)
3. Namaste (Devin Townsend)
4. Night (Ocean Machine)
5. Storm (Devin Townsend Band)
9. March of the Poozers
10. A New Reign
11. Lucky Animals
12. Life (Ocean Machine)
13. Christeen (Devin Townsend)
14. Ih-Ah! (encore)
15. Kingdom (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Jana Blomqvist