REVIEW: Devin Townsend at the Thornbury Theatre, September 8

If you’ve seen Devin Townsend with the Devin Townsend Project, well, that’s not the same as seeing him back in the Strapping Young Lad days. And it’s very not the same thing as seeing him in solo acoustic mode. In Strapping, Devin was all about power and aggression and metaaaaaaal. In the Devin Townsend Project, you were dealing with a Devin operating within the confines of some pretty strict arrangements and backing tracks; he was able to roam a little bit but not a lot. 

Acoustic Devin is Devin unfiltered. Aside from an acoustic guitar and his incredibly expressive voice – one minute angelic, the next demonic – the sound is filled out by all sorts of interesting modulated echo effects applied to Devin’s signature Prestige guitar. So what you’re getting is Devin’s voice, his guitar and the room he’s performing in. And here’s the thing: that room makes all the difference, from the acoustics on its stage to the audience members populating the seats. And so on this first night of Devin’s Australian tour we were treated to Devy in a great mood in a great-sounding room with an appreciative audience who were willing to trust Devy with their ears for about three hours of musical intensity. We got tracks from the new Empath. We got tracks from Ziltoid The Omniscient. Ocean Machine. We even got ‘Love’ from Strapping Young Lad’s Alien. Fuck, we even got a track from Les Mis! 

We also got a Q&A session where Devin riffed on matters philosophical (drugs – yay or nay? What’s parenting like for you?), emotional (how you doin’ these days?), aspirational (who would you like to work with? What are you doing next?). Honestly, it would be worth attending one of these shows for the talky bits alone, and although he probably wouldn’t agree, Devin could nail standup comedy if he wanted to. Oh and if you’re wondering, that Prestige acoustic sounds beautiful – very clear and detailed and rich. Beautiful stuff. 

This is a unique moment in the Empath touring cycle, before the next phase which will involve a full live band with no backing tracks and lots of scope for in-the-moment musical creation. Although nothing is ever concrete in Devin’s world, this is probably the last chance to see him in this format for quite a while.