Devin Townsend unleashed a double-header of mind-crushing complexity and zen tranquility when his self-titled Project released Deconstruction and Ghost albums in June. With just a day to go before Townsend’s main stage set at Bloodstock 2012, Thrash Hits sent Ruth Booth down to Exeter in search of the universe’s ultimate festival warm-up….
Six things we learned when we saw Devin Townsend @ Exeter Cavern Club
1) Tonight’s venue choice may be down to more than just convenience (or is it?). Exeter has to have the most public toilets per square yard of any City centre in the country. Perfect if you’ve got the squits after a twelve hour coach ride – or for those post-gig Hot Sauce moments.
2) Support act Dave McPherson gets his inspiration from TV jingles. As the man himself points out, ‘Before I Even Had You’ has a familiar chord or two for fans of teen vampire slayers. Gloating hyperbole and I-told-ya-so’s aside, it’s true McPherson still suffers from the fallout of InMe’s hyped debutant days. So it’s a surprise to find not only are his live chops pretty powerful, but even ‘Faster the Chase’ has aged remarkably well – a good omen for both McPherson’s solo career and InMe’s fifth studio album, due later this year through Pledgemusic.
3) Much has been made of Devin Townsend’s sense of purpose since starting the Project quadrilogy, but this week’s three acoustic warm-ups for Bloodstock must be the biggest test of his new, more focussed outlook. It’s a relaxed Townsend who takes the stage and hands to shake, but determined. With live backdrop edits by Mike St Jean, there’s some beautiful moments where the photography by Brian Kibbons, or footage of sun flares, chime in just right with, say, the hush that greets ‘Terminal’. Having said that….
4) ‘Juular’ acoustic? ‘Deconstruction’ acoustic? Anyone with half an ear on The Devin Townsend Project might have expected a setlist dominated by the quadrilogy’s mellower albums Ki and Ghost. The request-driven show covered tracks from ‘Deadhead’ and ‘Christeen’, through to a preview of the bluesy ‘Radial Highway’ from upcoming album Ghost 2 – via ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Quiet and contemplative this ain’t, even if Townsend did have the foresight to record an acoustic album especially for these shows. With that out the way, tonight was free to be largely about belting out your heart in the gaps, and turning the Exeter Cavern into a 300 man melodic version of the Puma Hard Chorus.
5) Request shows can turn into anarchy, and getting a beered-up bunch of enthusiastic folks to keep it respectful throughout might have been a problem, were not for the following: Devin Townsend has become hands down the nicest guy in Metal. ‘Hide Nowhere’, complete with backing vocals by the audience, ends with Townsend shaking half the crowd by the hand – and that’s nothing to say of the time he spent meet’n’greeting after the show. Townsend is no pushover, but these days he makes Dave Grohl look like Mr Burns. When one crowd member gets too rowdy halfway through, Devin stops him. “I just have one thing to say to you,” he says, pointing firmly at the heckler. For a tension-stuffed moment, it’s not clear what he’s going to do. Then Dev’s face crumples to a grin. “I love you, man!” Wavy Gravy indeed….
6) Between songs, Townsend says that constantly making music and performing under his own moniker feels so odd, it makes him want to change his name to Charles Fuckbot. Going by tonight, I’m afraid Mister Fuckbot is just going to have to deal with it. Towards the end, even Townsend declares it “the greatest night of [his] life”. Bet he says that to all the six-foot-tall, 250lb hairy blokes who want his babies.
Devin Townsend @ Exeter Cavern Club, Exeter setlist
Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor cover)
Solar Winds / Sister