Whenever Devin Townsend graces this side of the Atlantic, one thing is for sure, and that is a special occasion on any London date that he is scheduled. Such memorable instances include the famous Retinal Circus, the Ziltoid Musical and the special Brixton Academy co-headline showdown with Meshuggah, all of which took place in the capital at various venues.
Such a plethora of shows in succession over the past few years has led Devin Townsend to garner something of a cult following, as if there wasn’t enough ideas and visions that he has created through visual and musical mediums to suggest such. Yet, on this occasion, while on tour with UK progressive metallers TesseracT and Norwegian prog outfit Leprous, it was obvious that another special memorable show was in the works, this time at the monstrous Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, which is a very impressive accolade in itself to behold. Yet imagining the former Strapping Young Lad frontman and visionary to captivate an audience of this capacity is something easy to envision – but time would tell by the end of the night.
Kicking off the evening are Leprous, who in the early stages of their set play with the precision and timing of a well oiled machine. Full to the brim with polyrhythmic prowess and harmonious sections that feature some intricate finger tapping, they also bring a strong punch that exemplifies a deep-rooted heaviness. Having already announced a new album in the works, Leprous are headed for something of a new direction, whilst keeping a mentality of heavy and melodic prog rock, with influences of traditional and contemporary artistic uniqueness. Comparative to other times I have seen the band, this stood out moreso.
TesseracT, following a high impact opening set, resume the ambience tenfold with songs from new album Polaris and immediately transitioning into two crowd favourites from One. TesseracT’s notorious presence both on stage and with their musical ebbs and flows produce yet another mesmerising set that makes it impossible to look away or not be impressed. Frontman Dan Tompkins again proves that he has possibly the strongest vocal range out of anybody in the tech metal terrain, with a vast array of soaring melodic passages at the forefront of the band’s immensely heavy-yet-delicate instrumental work. The set ranges from thunderously mesmeric to ambient and quaint, and it is accentuated perfectly without being overpowering. Perfection as expected, although an appearance by that song would have been…erm…more perfect.
Most people in attendance are here to see Devin Townsend, judging by the colourful array of T-shirts on display, whose appearance is marked as a special Ocean Machine: Biomech set in full, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of said album. Undoubtedly a momentous occasion for the accomplished and versatile Devin Townsend, and deservedly so – and with the recent release of Transcendence meant that some songs should also make an appearance. They did, of course.
Nonetheless this is where the set gets a minor criticism from me – not because I didn’t enjoy what I saw, knowing that Ocean Machine is a fantastic historical landmark that belongs amongst all of Devin’s best work (“The Death of Music” being a complete masterpiece). What makes Devin’s live shows so special is his crowd interactions, insatiable musical talent and a wall of sound that accentuates the heavy segments and is completely complimentary of the melodic sections. Don’t ask me how he does that but whatever he does, it works tremendously. That wasn’t in full effect tonight. Perhaps because the songs from albums such as Deconstruction, Addicted and Epicloud are all exemplary of this sound, and typically the songs also feature the aforementioned interactions that make them more enjoyable. However, since no songs from those albums appeared, the versatility took a hit in my opinion.
That being said, Devin’s uncanny ability to woo audiences wherever he plays is untouched and he hits the nail on the head again here, with a bellowing Eventim Apollo crowd in full deference. Quite clearly a perfect set for the older Devin fans, but those newer to his work would definitely have taken something different away, albeit still positive.