Some months ago, Devin Townsend announced a huge headline show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Devin devotees quickly scrambled for tickets, leading to a second show being added the night before, ironically becoming the first show, and the original show becoming the second one. Devin promised these two shows would be “The Greatest Sets Of My Life”, and that they would feature completely different set lists. More on that shortly.
Before the Devin Townsend experience, those in attendance at a rapidly filling Royal Albert Hall were treated, in the greatest sense of the word, to a magnificent set from support act Leprous (9). There are not many vocalists in the world of music (never mind metal) who can get anywhere close to Devin in terms of power and range, but Leprous’ Einar Solberg is definitely one of them. An utterly wonderful vocal performance was the focal point of a forty minute set that was evenly spaced between last years’ excellent release Aphelion and tracks from Leprous three previous albums. The opening Out Of Here and penultimate track Nighttime Disguise were highlights, but the entire thing was quite brilliant. One of the stand out support slots on these shores in recent years.
It is fair to say that anyone in attendance’s view of Devin Townsend’s (8) setlist at the second of these Royal Albert Hall shows is probably coloured by how well they know his back catalogue. While Saturday’s setlist could quite easily be described as a greatest hits set, tonight sees Devin dig deep into his musical vault with a selection of rarities, deep cuts and even a song he’d never played live before. For the hardcore fans, the setlist was the musical equivalent of a wet dream. For those perhaps slightly less familiar with his vast musical output, they may have struggled slightly and found themselves wanting a few more of Devin’s well known songs to break up the rarities.
That’s not to say that there weren’t things to enjoy for the more casual in attendance, far from it. Starting with Seventh Wave from the vaunted Ocean Machine was an excellent beginning, and a monstrous combination of Stormbending and Higher from the final Devin Townsend Project album Transcendence allowed each member of Devin’s band to show off their considerable technical chops. Almost Again (the lone Strapping Young Lad song in this set compared to three the night before) was greeted with a huge roar, and the standing area of the Albert Hall got their dancing shoes on for Bad Devil. Devin was slightly less chatty than he has been on previous occasions, but there were still various remarks that landed very well with the audience.
In terms of the rarer material, the pick of the bunch would be a toss up between Coast and Earth Day, which were both excellent. With tracks like Om and Dynamics (given it’s first ever live outing tonight) It was fascinating looking around the grand cavernous sides of the Albert Hall, drinking in the reactions of those in attendance. It was very much a 50 / 50 split between the hardcore fans, utterly entranced, and those somewhat more puzzled, unfamiliar with the material.
A quadrouple blast of the last four tracks from Ocean Machine in the shape of Funeral, Bastard, the 12 minute epic The Death Of Music and album closer Things Beyond Things was, to the enlightened, like giving them manna from Heaven. Devin explained how much BS the concept of walking off for an encore was, only to then do it anyway in true Devin Townsend style, returning with a huge grin on his face. An encore of Grace was one of the most impressive moments of the night, and ensured a fitting ending to what had been quite a special evening. Whether it was quite the set that some in attendance thought they might get is another question, but there is no doubting how impressive it was as an event. One the hardcore Devin Townsend fans present will never, ever forget.
Rock Sins’ were lucky enough to be present for a VERY different Devin Townsend experience two days later; His acoustic solo show in Cambridge. A review of that will follow in the coming days.