DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND – Oslo – Betong
Devin Townsend had been to Oslo once before, for a show, according to the man himself, some fifteen years ago during his short tenure with The Wildhearts. A lot has changed in that time, often seemingly for the worse, none more prevalent than his post Strapping Young Lad blow out. However….
Once again pulling his own reigns under his own moniker he seems more at ease with his life situation as well as his artistic and business side. He had announced his plans to release a four album set. The first being "Ki" which was introspective and rather ambient. The second being the "Addicted" which turned out to be an expertly crafted album that blended traditional Rock and Metal formings with inherent Pop sensibilities….by that I mean that the man delivered a platter with such precise songwriting that the public at large took to it with a fervour that I believe surprised even Townsend himself. In fact such was the general lauding of the disc that he reneged on his hiatus from touring and eventually found himself at this Oslo venue on a this chilly Saturday night.
Arrival one hour after doors open surprises me due to there still being a healthy queue front of venue. I soon find out that pre sales were close to 700 and there is expected to be 800 plus assembled. What the…? Townsend has always been well supported and talked off but this far exceeds expectations.
The venue is predictably stuffy but more noticeable is the sheer air of exited anticipation. There are a lot of folk here who have obviously waited some time for his Oslo return.
Truth be told I am hit and miss with Devin Townsend. After the first two Strapping Young Lad albums I found nothing of interest in the music of that group. His solo stuff has mostly left me feeling passive and neutral. However……"Ki" had moments of understated beauty that connected with me very well and I believe"Addicted" to be a masterpiece in song craft and one of the top three releases of 2009. His trump card, however, is his Ocean Machine album from 1997. This album for me has moments where it touches on absolute genius and during back to back numbers "Funeral" and "Bastard" is nothing short of that genius it hints on throughout the album embodied fully.
Anyway, enough from me and my pointless pseudo reflective meanderings. How was the gig itself?
Earlier that day during an interview Townsend stated, as he had before when we met him for interview in 2009, his new found clarity post alcohol and drugs had led him into a new world of creativity and appreciation for his craft, this indeed is present immediately on his entrance to the stage. The band may be named for him, the songs may be all products of his talents and he obviously steers every facet of the ship but it is obvious that the musicians he surrounds himself with are integral to the show and it is further obvious that he has vision enough to implant them as more than mere helpers. This all considered it immediately shows that he is a man who sees the bigger picture, the result is that you do not sense a Megadeth type situation where there is a feeling of watching an artistic dictator flanked by his blue shirts, what we feel here is that we are witnessing a real musical happening. I am taken by the fact that this is a proper musical event here that is only helped by feeling further that Townsend sees this as not about himself but about the songs, this truly lends me to the opinion that this man views this scenario as being more of an experience for the paying customer instead of being an exercises in ego. He is one of the greats.
Sound wise the night is amazing. Performance wise the night is amazing. Atmosphere, vibe etc etc, all is just brilliant. What moves me on occasion is just how brilliant the man’s vocals are – there is a reason that he sang on Steve Vai’s "Sex & Religion" album – his power, range and delivery are spotless.
The set list is not ideal by my standards, if that were the case it would consist of the entire Ocean Machine disc, all of "Addicted" and a few cuts from "Ki", however it does seem to endlessly please the 700 – 800 assembled here and the moments where he does delve into my favourites are aural delights.
There are few, if any, complaints I can have regards his show. He is the consummate host throughout, his eccentric personality making all feel that they are sharing something rather than merely witnessing. This is highlighted perfectly during final number "Bend It Like Bender" when the stage is absolutely filled solid with audience members to end the night as it was intended I’m sure, in a shared celebration of music and madness. Awesome.