The metal world, especially those who exist in proximity to London, have been awaiting The Retinal Circus for many months. It is promising to be the potential highlight of the career of Devin Townsend thus far, and those who know the history of Devin will agree that is quite some statement to make.
A show as special as The Retinal Circus requires due preparation, and that’s what tonight’s show was all about. Along with a show the previous evening in Newcastle, this show at The Junction in Cambridge (one of the great small to medium size venues in the whole country) was Devin’s last chance to warm up for Retinal in front of an audience. The man himself told me during our interview (coming exclusively to Rocksins very soon) that he takes a couple of shows to warm up on every tour and by show three he’d be just fine. Well The Retinal Circus main event was show three, it was time to find out what would happen in show two.
Support for the evening came in the shape of local metal five piece Unit 9. They were a fairly meat and potatoes metal band but had some good riffs and some of the bass lines in particular were memorable which will encourage this reviewer to check them out in the future and would recommend that any readers do so as well. The band announced that their E.P. is available for free downloadable via their Facebook page so that would be a good place to start.
WARNING: RETINAL CIRCUS PROBABLE SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD
What started off as a fairly sparse crowd was looking much healthier by the time a certain Devin Townsend took to the stage in a low key entrance to explain how the evening was going to work. He explained that there would be awkward timings, use of backing tapes to cover for bits where live vocals would be used on Saturday at Retinal proper, and that it would generally be a bit of a mish-mash evening (sadly he didn’t say mish-mash).
He then wandered off stage to wander back on with the rest of The Devin Townsend Project as Effervescent blared over the PA before kicking off the evening with a dose of Epicloud in the shape of True North and the amazing Lucky Animals (complete with instructions on how to do the Lucky Animals dance). Reports from the previous evening in Newcastle suggested a Devin slightly nervous and uptight over the weekends coming festivities; Happily the Devin in Cambridge on this evening was enjoying himself from the word go, grinning away and pulling all manner of facial expressions in the way only Devin Townsend can.
Learn The Lucky Animals Dance!
Whilst he may not have had the full Retinal Circus stage show, the backdrops and videos that were so amusing and used to great effect at Download made a re-appearance, allowing those in attendance to get re-acquainted with Ziltoid and various other humourous clips. The clip used during the brilliant Vampira was distracting to the point of taking focus off a wonderful song, even when accompanied by a spot of Vampolka beforehand.
A return to Epicloud saw The Devin Townsend Project’s “version of a love song” Where We Belong which had the crowd swaying from side to side waving with a suitably impressed Devin conducting from the front. He then announced “this evening’s ambient performance” and then took a pause before launching into Kingdom, the heaviest and most impressive song of the night. The power of this song live has to be experienced to gain a full appreciation of it. From there on out it was headbang central with Juular, Grace and an encore (where Devin told everyone he would walk off and come back on in a couple of minutes because he’s old) of the excellent Bad Devil.
The Full Devin Townsend Project Setlist Was:
Planet of the Apes
Color Your World
Where We Belong
The purpose of this show and the one before it was for Devin to be confident about performing what one assumes is the majority, if not the whole set for The Retinal Circus in front of an audience, allowing the time between now and Saturday to focus on the more elaborate aspects of the show. He and the rest of the band were able to enjoy themselves on stage and this was a fantastic evening for both band and fans in attendance. Consider tonight mission accomplished.