I had not long turned 15 when I walked into the tiny music shop in the town where I grew up and spotted ‘Sex and Religion’, the long awaited release from Steve Vai after the massive success of ‘Passion and Warfare’.
He had put together a band (which didn’t work out too well as it turns out) for the project and this included a little known Canadian guy called Devin Townsend on vocals.
I excitedly bought the CD and rushed home for that all important first play…. the thing that struck me most about the album was how amazing the vocals were, not only could Devin cover a massive range with both control and ease but he was also able to turn out a wicked scream that gave the whole thing a real edgy feel.
For years whenever the discussion of ‘dream band’ came up (a common subject around a pub table) I always opted for Devin Townsend as the man I would choose for the job and that fact remains true to this day. Unfortunately I lost track of what Devin was upto at this point, it was 1993 and the internet was just around the corner, let alone everyone having websites or twitter to keep everyone informed.
Happily it was a short-lived absence as I re-discovered Devin again when I started listening to Strapping Young Lad and through them stumbled across his solo work which re-ignited the flame and I have been a devoted fan ever since! The strange thing considering all this is that I have never seen Devin live, I came close once, had tickets and everything but couldn’t make it in the end. Clashes of dates and other such nonsense seemed to transpire against me ever seeing him…. until last Sunday.
Touring the UK as part of the ‘Epic Industrialist Tour’ with TesseracT and Fear Factory, Devin and co stopped off for a date at the o2 Academy in Bristol. It was my first visit to the venue and have to say I was impressed with the location, layout and that all important vibe.
Whilst there is a fair amount of cross-over between Fear Factory and Devin Townsend fans it still felt like there were two groups of fans in the crowd, with a marked ‘change-over’ between the sets that made it feel a bit more like a festival audience than your normal indoor show. It was the second time I had seen Fear Factory and they were impressive as last time though have to say that Burton C Bell struggled with the gentle segments of his vocals which was a bit of a shame.
Once Fear Factory were done and the amusing video to accompany the switch-over between bands enjoyed the lights dimmed, the crowd cheered and the other members of the band filed onto the darkened stage. The members of the Devin Townsend Project; bassist Brian ‘Beav’ Waddell, guitarist Dave Young and drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen took up their places to much applause before the man himself walked out onto the stage. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was proper star-struck, after years of listening, watching, following and supporting Devin here he was, right in front of me, grinning and smiling to the crowd.
Obligatory crap iPhone photo
The gig itself was everything I would expect from the band; well crafted songs performed to the highest calibre by extremely talented musicians, despite the fact that Devin was suffering from a cold and he was having to protect his voice to avoid losing it completely before the end of the tour.
The show also had something that is often missing from the world of metal, a sense of humour. There were two young guys stood in front of me and inbetween brushing their carefully coiffured emo hair from their eyes they watched completely bemused by what they could see through their fringes. I watched with amusement as one of them tapped out a message on his phone to show his mate:
“Who the hell are these guys? It is like Louie Spence has started managing a metal band”
Devin himself backed this up by asking the crowd who was seeing them for the first time as he could see a number of faces out there staring up at him in complete amazment. This was even more evident during the rendition of Lucky Animals from his new and highly successful album, Epicloud, when Devin encouraged the crowd to join in with him on the chorus and to throw their best jazz hands in the air on the word lucky. The majority of the crowd got it completely, saw it for the good laugh it was intended and joined in with complete abandon. The two in front of me remained ‘too cool for school’ though and merely watched as a room full of metal fans danced and threw awkward funky shapes to the strange bald headed guy on stage.
I left the venue as one of many happy faces and pleased at having ticked a major box for 2012 by seeing a long time hero and musical genius at work.