Artist: Devin Townsend Project
DVD: Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall
When you think of Canada and metal, there’s really only one person who comes to mind: Devin Townsend. This creative soul is known for doing whatever his heart desires when it comes to music, from the gone-but-not-forgotten Strapping Young Lad to the more recent Casualties of Cool and everything in between. His most recent album, Z2, is straight-up fantastic, and in 2015 it was brought to life at the Royal Albert in London. The DVD/Blu-Ray concert was released on November 13th and we’ve been enjoying it ever since!
[Ed: this report has been backdated from 2017]
Listen along as you read here:
There were a lot of different versions of Live at the Royal Albert to pick from, but how could you turn down the boxed set that included an artbook from the gig? This comprehensive piece of art includes original Ziltoid artwork, behind the scenes and live gig photography, and band photoshoots. The quality of both the artwork and photography is off the charts, and adds a little something special to the set. It’s definitely worth shelling out a little more for this version.
As for the DVD/Blu-Ray, it includes two full setlists at the phenomenal English venue, the Royal Albert. The first half of the show is Dark Matters, the second disc from Z2, in full. Any fans of the Ziltoid series are sure to be thrilled with this. However, not only were we graced with some good old Ziltoid, but the second half of the show includes an on-request setlist that’s quite a bit different from the usual Devy sets you’d get at any regular show, at least by 2015 standards. However, we don’t want to spoil the whole DVD for you, so we’re going to stick to Ziltoid.
Where to begin? Let’s start at the top and work our way down. To start with… hell yeah! Z2 was one of the top-rated albums of 2014 for us, so to get the chance to see the full thing performed live in concert… well let’s just say that we were a bit cheesed that we didn’t hear about the Royal Albert show in time to fly over to London to watch it in person.
The Royal Albert, if you’ve never heard of it, is a gorgeous concert hall in London with the capacity of 8,000. If you watch the documentary in the special features, you’ll see how much effort went into putting this show on: the background panels, the choir, the actors playing the parts of Ziltoid and the Poozers, Dominique Lenore Persi as the War Princess, and more. There is also Chris Jericho and Bill Courage as Captain Spectacular and the narrator respectively, who aren’t physically present, but are seen on the massive backing panels on the stage.
The stage itself was set up with several sets of risers, some of which hosted the choir, some of which were traversed by the characters, including the War Princess and the Poozers. I have to say, the stage show was very nicely balanced between metal show and performance, as you get a little taste of the Ziltoid world, but it never goes so far as to become a true stage performance per say (like The Theater Equation), so the action on stage doesn’t take away from the musicians and Townsend doing their thing.
And the performance was incredible. That’s not to say it was perfect, though who really expects that? But they had clearly done a lot of practice (word on the street was that Townsend was actually using his sound checks during the tour as practice for this show) and it showed. He sounded great, the choir was great, Persi was great, and the band was great. I’m going to take this moment to give a shout-out to Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums – I confess to knowing very little about drums technically, but that guy is absolutely insane. I’ve never seen anyone rock a double-kick quite like he does. He’s kind of my hero.
Townsend himself is all smiles throughout the show, shouting out, encouraging the crowd, and oh so clearly having the time of his life. You can tell this was something he was truly looking forward to. It seems as though the Ziltoid stories are a bit close to his heart and it shows in gigs like this.
Persi absolutely crushed her parts as the War Princess, and if you think that the song is a bit long for the casual listen, you can’t deny that in the full span of the story, as seen live, it’s fantastic just the way it is. On the other hand, it does appear that the spoken vocal parts were lip-synched, though admittedly, it would be a bit weird. The narrator is also present, as a pair of disembodied eyes with an accompanying mouth spread out over the segmented background screens. This can be taken either as a weird choice, or as an artistically clever way of putting him on the screen without taking up too much space – your call. And, to their credit, the vocal parts weren’t exactly the same as they were on the album, so you weren’t getting a carbon copy of the stuff you’ve already heard.
This part of the set ends as the album closes, and Townsend has a little chat about what’s going on. I won’t bother to summarize it because that’d ruin it for anyone watching it in the future. It tells a lot about the mindset and meaning behind this show though, which is definitely worth seeing.
And that’s the show. If you know and like the music, you’d really benefit from seeing this live video. Complete with the on-request set, including unusual picks like “Earth Day”, “Bastard”, and “The Death of Music”, as well as a personal favorite, “Universal Flame” (which I may never forgive Townsend for leaving out of the Z2 tour), the second half is a great set for DTP fans who want to hear a few unusual picks live.
So, a worthwhile DVD to pick up? I’d sure say so. No regrets on my behalf, and I think the average DTP fan would certainly agree.
Disc 1 setlist:
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
6. March of the Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z
Disc 2 setlist:
4. Earth Day
8. Lucky Animals
12. The Death of Music
13. Universal Flame