And so, to the end – Devin Townsend’s four-night London residency under the banner of An Evening with The Devin Townsend Project comes to a close not with a bang or a whimper, but with an evening of experimentation and introspection. Tonight, Devin Townsend turned his attention to Ghost. Ruth Booth and Jamie Croft were there to document it.
Six things we found out when we saw Devin Townsend perform Ghost in full:
1) To begin, there is the venue, The Union Chapel in Islington. An 19th century octagonal tower, set with ornate, functional archways that shape its impressive acoustics. Awe-inspiring, yet practical – like a steampunk’s place of worship: In a tiny room in the back, you can order camomile tea and ice cream from a cooperative diary. This is the setting for the fourth and final night of the An Evening with The Devin Townsend Project shows, Ghost.
2) And into this venue walks an elegant, swan-like woman, singing standards from the Requiem mass to glockenspiel and strings. Hazlitt are the least obvious choice of support of all four nights. So far we’ve seen Dave McPherson provide acoustic support to Ki, Amplifier constructing walls of sound before Addicted, and Shining warming up the left side of the brain before the Deconstruction set. The reason why Hazlitt don’t logically follow has nothing to do with the way their ethereal sound plays in this place -thrilling, and unique – however.
3) Despite the setting, Townsend has left off the shiny suit. Just grey hooded top, green slacks and t-shirt, glasses. The rest of the band have followed to a greater or lesser extent. Two songs in, as ‘Heart, Baby’ makes its tentative start, Townsend turns to Kat Epple, and leads his childhood musical heroine in a duet. It’s one that faintly recalls Deliverence’s duelling banjos, as done by some echo of Enya. While Ki may have been the all-star night, Ghost is the show that feels most like a coming together of those exploring music in their own ways.
Devin Townsend performs 'Ghost' @ London Union Chapel - 12 November 2011 c/o Jamie Croft
All photos c/o Jamie Croft.
4) It’s also worth noting that originally Ki was to be performed here as well, later moved due to the decibel level. Put aside how realistic concerns were about Dirk Verbeuren’s Ki drumming in a Grade 2 listed building: it’s not so much about avoiding the heavier moments. The encore, a preview for upcoming album, Epicloud, closes with the sinister ‘Watch You’, and its sudden switch-up. Compared to, say, ‘Juular’‘s savage solo work last night, it’s barely on the same noise level, but I’ve never seen an audience jump higher.
5) This is less about elegance or surprise, but more about what lies in simplicity and union – for example, the rumbling car bass of ‘Radial Highway’, or the bird sounds and sirens Epple teases from her EWI. Kudos also to Mike St-Jean, operating both the visuals and drumming tonight. The faded projections in the rose window above the stage work to mixed degrees – best with the more organic leaf-like patterns, and it takes better eyes than mine can pick out details of Dev’s family shots (the projections in the photos in the gallery have been tweaked a little). It all comes together during ‘Seams’, as patterns of starred light spin, twist and fade in the window: like Townsend’s whispers passing across the almost imperceptible hum of Epple’s flute. For a few moments, you can see why he says this is “the summit” of all four nights for him.
6) As the encore fades, Townsend gets off the stage and walks between the aisles, thanking every one in person. For a few minutes afterwards, I’ll watch the crowd milling around – no-one pushes, but everyone gets a greeting. Devin says during the set that, as far as he’s concerned, “this whole thing is history” after tonight. Maybe so, but this doesn’t feel like the end of something. Indeed, it feels more like the beginning.
Devin Townsend performs Ghost @ London Union Chapel setlist:
As You Were