Devin Townsend and his Project are doing pretty well at present. In fact, we think it’s fair to say that between his gloriously mad prog-metal opera at the Royal Albert Hall, a run of great form and great products culminating in the staggering Transcendence album, his profile has probably never been higher. It’s a shame because had this been the 90’s, he’d probably have been lighting cigars with dollar bills right about now.
But it’s not the 90’s.
That’s right folks; we all started downloading our shit for free, utterly destroying the music industry and forcing the companies that run it to ride the artists ever harder while sobbing into their diminishing marginal returns. Being a rock star sure ain’t what it used to be.
Proof of DTPs current popularity is evident in their touring schedule for 2017. Right now they are treading that well-worn path across Europe and the UK with the angular art-rock of Leprous and shimmering prog-meisters TesseracT in tow. Tonight it’s Glasgow and they are balls deep in week 7 of an 8-week slog. That’s right folks, these gentlemen are knackered and for all their immense musicianship and towering, yet humble, stage presence, you can feel it.
Kicking off into “Rejoice”, a wonderful mix of heavy and melodic that does exactly what it says on the tin, something isn’t right. The Barrowlands isn’t the greatest of rooms acoustically at the best of times and here the riffs, the complexity of the harmonies and the impact seems… lost. Devy himself, looks weary and often flips his voice to the harsh register, avoiding the soaring theatrical highs that, on a good night, have the power to make you laugh, cry, head-bang and high-five your mates simultaneously. It’s only on “Stormbending” and the incredible “Failure” from Transcendence that the band seem to come alive, perhaps spurred on by the fact that these newer songs are less of a chore to them. The rather apathetic Tuesday-night crowd – in a venue that looks a good bit short of full – respond in kind and pretty soon we have some kind of a party going on!
Then disaster. A technical gremlin has been battling to make his scaly green ass felt for a few songs now. At first, we mistook it for a malfunctioning drum mic, then put it down to the HORRIBLE PA system in this venue. But suddenly the house lights are on and we’re being told that the computer that controls the front of house sound has crashed and for ten minutes we are to be stood down.
Okay, so your average rock star would probably storm off stage, shout at the tour manager, kick his bass player, down booze then come back on and do a shitty show. Not Devy. Hell no! We get Devy dancing with a Ziltoid Puppet, then… getting intimate with same, Devy leading the crowd in singing happy birthday to some dude in the audience, Devy playing a bit of “Life” on his acoustic.
It’s almost a show we’d pay for by itself!
Then finally, when by his own admission he is running out of ideas, the sound is back. Next song up is “Planet of the Apes”; almost twelve minutes of angst, abstract arpeggios, off kilter time signatures and bizarre changes of tack. Oh dear. The crowd and band come adrift from one another and it takes both time and fantastic renditions of “Where We Belong”, “Ziltoid Goes Home” and “March of the Poozers” to really bring things back to where we were. Sadly, by that point it’s almost time to say goodbye.
They end on a typically crushing rendition of “Kingdom’”then a somewhat less stellar run through “Ih Ah”, complete with a couple of bum notes that Devy seems too jaded to care about. They sign off with the ethereal “Higher” from the current album, a bit of a curious choice (for us), but it did give rise to the one and only pit of the night. Which was as weak as dish water.
Devy was as gracious and compelling a host as ever, but having seen him a few times now, we cannot deny that DTP didn’t really unfurl the ‘A’ game tonight. Blame the room, blame computers, blame the Tuesday night blues or just a tired band but on this occasion, the Scottish metal community and the greatest living song writer were undoubtedly on different pages. 6/10