Devin Townsend is known for many bands: Steve Vai, Strapping Young Lad, The Devin Townsend Band, the Devin Townsend Project, and a few others. On March 14th, 2014, the Devin Townsend Project finished up their short 2014 tour through some of the Nordic countries at The Circus in Helsinki. Devin Townsend seems to bring out the wildest and wackiest of people (as well as the drunkest of the drunk), and the venue was upwards of three quarters full for the show.
Being rather unfamiliar with Devin Townsend (post-SYL), it was brought to my attention that it is part of the novelty of his shows to go watch whatever is playing on the screen before the show actually starts. While I didn’t see or recognize everything, I did find a few things that I knew. The screen played a few minutes of either some videos of Ziltoid spliced on top of popular YouTube videos, or a mash-up of other well-known videos. Some that I recognized included The Rejected Videos, Badgers from Weebl and Bob, Technoviking, Boots and Cats, The Gummy Bear Song, and a guy lighting his farts on fire.
The band came out near enough to 20:45 that one couldn’t really call it a late start. They began the show with the seven-minute heavy epic, “Seventh Wave,” which is a Devin Townsend track from back in the days when he had a project called Ocean Machine. While most bands wait until the song is over to talk, Devin doesn’t let the presence of a live song stop him from chatting with the crowd. He shouted out his greetings in the midst of the song, ensuring us that we were going to have fun.
After ripping through a couple more tracks (like “War,” which had the crowd’s hands waving back and forth rapidly in time with the music (a move usually reserved for ballads and other slow songs)), he talked a bit about Ziltoid 2, and that Finland is a big part of Ziltoid. The merch booth had been selling Ziltoid puppets and they went up into the air when the band blasted into “By Your Command.” Everything from that album is just heavy and bizarre and has a bit of a sci-fi spacey element to it that is really interesting to hear live.
It’s a shame that the sound quality in The Circus is questionable at times, because at this point I was up closer to the stage and it was hard to hear anything clearly. Oh, and apparently earth’s coffee is still fetid. Again, Devin was calling out, “Are you guys with me? Are you with Ziltoid? Then clap your fucking hands!”
In fact, it seems like listening to the man talk is half of the fun of the show. Not only is he an easy-going goof, but his facial expressions when he’s playing make it look like there’s another human trying to crawl out of his face, and it’s pretty entertaining to see a man scream and make said faces, and then be so calm and amiable when speaking to the crowd. I believe it was before “Deadhead” that he was saying that he’s been doing this a long time, maybe about 24 years, and he doesn’t like music (jokingly). But here’s a song about love. “We can sing about hate until the cows come home, but we can crush it with this shit!” And of course, I couldn’t catch every word he said, but before “Bad Devil,” I’m sure I heard him say something about, “…in the back alley drinking that hobo’s piss….”
The video screen was still going throughout the show as well. The clips on it covered a pretty wide range of “topics,” from general equalizer-style videos featuring the DTP logo up to a muppet that I believe he named Beans, rocking out on a ukulele. A lot of the videos had a bit of a space theme to them, such as solar flares on the sun, or just general science/spacey images. As Beans was on the screen, he said that he’s been playing this shit for ages, and that we should all come back next year and he’ll have something new for the show.
One really cool thing about his shows is that he doesn’t stick to just music from the Devin Townsend project itself. Like mentioned before, several tracks were from Ocean Machine: Biomech, there was one Devin Townsend Band “cover,” a few tracks from Ziltoid the Omniscient, and some solo Devin Townsend music as well. The only possible way to make the set more awesome would’ve been to include some Strapping Young Lad, but there was unsurprisingly no such luck, seeing as how Dev just doesn’t like doesn’t want to play that music anymore.
Nearing the end of the show, he said, “I’m going to get so fucking sober tonight.” He went on to talk about how he’d be in bed by midnight, maybe take some cold medicine to help with the stuffiness, and that this was heavy metal Canadian-style, it was great to be there, and thanks for coming! This happened sometime before they played “Juular,” a bit of a demonic carnival of a song, which had the official music video playing on the screen in the background. If you haven’t seen that video… it’s something else. I’d recommend giving it a watch (if you want to see something that words can’t describe).
The last song (pre-encore) was “Grace,” which had a lot of emphasis on “never fear love” in the video material in the background. Near the beginning, he told the crowd to call their mothers if they were lucky enough to have them in their lives, and finished the song by shouting out, “I couldn’t do this without you,” and gave his heartfelt thanks for the support.
After a not-too-long break, the crowd summoned the band back to the stage and he said that there were a lot of things you have to do on tours that he forgets about. For example, you must shout the city’s name (and then called out, “Helsinki!” to the crowd’s cheers), you must ask if they want some more (and then shouted, “Do you want some more?” to the crowd’s cheers), and then went on to say that you have to say, “I want a circle pit! But… you know, with more right angles.” He then asked for the crowd to give it up for his awesome band. He then went on to mention his upcoming 8-hour layover in Heathrow the following day on his way back to Canada. He asked what people do during 8-hour layovers. Write some stupid shit on Twitter? Maybe. Buy some toys for the kids? Maybe. Get some magazines for the wife? Maybe. Masturbate into a sock and then throw it down the runway? Definitely! There would be one more song, and only one more because of the curfew, which was actually probably untrue but made him feel less bad about only playing one track in the encore. With that, the band ended the night by playing “Life,” from Ocean Machine: Biomech.
So, being my first Devin show in a club, I have to say I was impressed. He’s goofy, he’s funny, and he’s enthusiastic. The music is heavy and progressive… everything he does has its own sound. It’s unique, and it makes it hard to stand still. His band is solid (the drummer in particular was rocking some very bass-heavy sound throughout) and the songs range from heavy as hell to heavy and funky. It’s just an all-around good time, and though some of my fellows there said it wasn’t top quality based on what they’ve seen, that definitely says something about the overall quality of his shows. If that was a mediocre performance, a good one would probably melt your face.
1. Seventh Wave (Ocean Machine)
2. War (Devin Townsend)
3. Regulator (Ocean Machine)
4. By Your Command (Devin Townsend)
5. Deadhead (The Devin Townsend Band)
6. Bad Devil (Devin Townsend)
7. Planet of the Apes
14. Life (Ocean Machine)