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An Evening With Devin Townsend – Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow, UK – Oct 12, 2015

Source // Devin Towsend

With the rare chance to see the mighty Hevy Devy stripped back and acoustic on offer, this gig reportedly sold out in just 4 minutes. Come the night, the 300 fans queuing outside this converted church would be likely to leave your average clergyman wishing that Christianity could still pull a crowd like this on a cold Monday night in central Scotland.

Taking a seat before the last of them disappears, we find ourselves in an awe-inspiring setting for an intimate audience with our hero. The altar and rose window above are illuminated and gently shimmering while sapphire blue up-lighters pick out the stained glass down each side of the chamber. There is a palpable feeling that something special is about to happen.

The opening act on this tour is one Irish gent named Tony Wright, who goes by the moniker of Verse Chorus Verse. He comfortably sets both tone and standard with his soulful, world weary confessionals of life, love and lying about one’s physical stature! Songs which run the gamut of influences from British invasion Blues to Elvis Presley – and on to today’s contemporary singer-songwriters – are conveyed by a voice that growls like a southern preacher one minute, ascending to a plaintive vibrato the next. There’s a rock sensibility to his solid, rhythmic guitar work and it wins favour among the predominantly metal audience.

It’s 20:30 and Dev appears wearing his specs and standard issue cargo pants, looking like some random Canadian Dad who just happens to have wandered in off the street. He doesn’t quite know where his head is at tonight and en route to figuring that out, tumbles into a beautiful, improvised piece borne on a tide of woozy reverb and punctuated with elegantly selected notes. Eyes closed, he is soon submerged in it, surfacing only to excuse himself from the stage. The reason? He’s left his iPad backstage and continues to play while he retrieves it!

All necessary tech present, Dev takes time to theatrically sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a lady in the audience before things get going proper. Given the location and the mood, what better way than with “Let it Roll”, the Scottish folk standard that opens his Prog masterpiece Synchestra.

The voyage gathers momentum and we are soon hypnotised by Dev in all his manic, self-effacing brilliance. He regales and charms us, touching songs well known for their acoustic interpretation like “Hyperdrive”, “Ih Ah”, “Sister” and an excerpt from “Solar Winds”. Admittedly, we fully expect him to delve into less well travelled material too and are not disappointed. “Funeral” appears from the ether, a moving experience as Devin hints at the events that inspired it. “Midnight Sun” from his current double album and ‘Coast’ from Ki then unfurl as he descends, circling the room, checking on his audience and posing for a few pictures mid-song. It seems that pretty much anything could happen.

In the hands of a lesser musician, an event such as this could easily degenerate into a self-indulgent jam but this was never going to be that kind of night. Instead, we swing wildly from irreverent banter and audience interaction to moments of heartfelt drama. At one point he punctuates his music with comedy Halloween sound effects, the next he delivers a transcendental version of “Dead Head” to a sea of transfixed faces. Guitar playing flawless, his soaring, bellowing voice endlessly dextrous, another stirring moment drifts past as he humbly passes off the bulk of his work as being inspired by ‘girls and fear’.

For material of this calibre, an hour and a half simply isn’t long enough and all too soon the night draws to a close. Devin ends with renditions of “Life” and “Slow Me Down” before announcing that he will stay as long as the audience needs the photos and to sign stuff, no boobs though as he doesn’t want to anger his wife! For us however, An Evening With Devin Townsend is over and we resist the temptation to join the massive queue of fans raring to talk to him.

Befitting of a former church, this has been a communion; the chance to sit at the feet of a great master and witness the high art of heavy music, imparted by one of its greatest personalities. A singular experience and one we will never forget. 10/10

About Stuart Bell (55 Articles)
I was born in 1975 with a pile of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple vinyl next to my cot. I ate off a sheet of ply-board propped up between two Marshall cabs and shortly after I learned to read and write I learned the E minor chord and the pentatonic scale. One day my Dad bought me Iron Maiden's first album. Metallica's Ride the Lightning followed. Then, things got serious. I have held almost every rank in the Army of Heavy Metal: Fan, drunk fan, roadie, guitarist, producer and label scout. My Wife knows what Mastodon's Crack The Skye is about and my child can play Breaking the Law on piano. Go figure.

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