Devin Townsend was many people’s first concert when he announced his Bloodstock warmup show in August 2021 so his latest tour would be important to a lot of people in the audience including myself. With a new album to tour and Fixation and Klone joining him, the show was set to be a memorable night for all.
Norwegian proggers Fixation came on first and they were sonically reminiscent of Leprous at times despite being a bit more positive and accessible. They had just released a brand new single ‘Ignore the Disarray’ which acted as a great introduction to the band and got the crowd invested. They’re a very heavy band but still feature clean vocals which is fairly uncommon nowadays.
‘What Have We Done’ is a brooding track that feels epic and grandiose showing off phenomenal musicianship, the delay from the drenched guitar solo was particularly impressive despite. Fixation prove that you can create massive soundscapes that feel huge without having to dedicate a really long time telling a story, it’s important to be succinct in a genre that is widely considered pompous and bloated.
Klone were next and they were much more reserved and quiet. They could be considered shoegaze if you were desperate to categorise them but prog fits them the best. Klone are a more rock-leaning band, you could arguably compare them to Riverside with the slower spacey riffs and synth backing on tracks like ‘Bystander’.
Covers are risky to include in your set because you run the risk of tricking your audience into liking you based on a song they already know and love. Klone played a cover of ‘Army of Me’ by Bjork, a very difficult song to sing but vocalist Yann Ligner pulled it off flawlessly. It was hard to tell songs apart at times but that can make for a really engaging experience that lets you really get lost in the set without having to think about finding it again, it can just be a moment in time that meant something to you.
Devin Townsend would come onto the stage accompanied by light triumphant music and rapturous applause. This set leant towards the brighter and more optimistic side of his back catalogue as he began with ‘Lightworker’, a huge stomping riff accompanied by his inimitable vocals that were both powerful and melodic. To call Devin wholesome would be a massive understatement, every note that comes out of this man is pure sonic positivity and his voice is unbelievably versatile.
He continued on with the gigantic choir-filled track ‘Kingdom’, a song that could be one of the most life-affirming songs in his back catalogue and maybe metal in general, the riff is so heavy yet simple and the production beyond it is so rich and dense but it’s easy to scream along despite Devin’s vocals being unreachable to the average singer. It’s a bizarre paradox but music doesn’t always make sense even if we’d like to think it does.
‘Dimensions’ was next and it marked the introduction of what Devin built up as the most amazing tool in his arsenal: a theremin and he was right. It’s a really cool instrument that is rarely seen in the metal world and should make more of an appearance in the scene as he playfully goofed off with it, proving it’s possible to make amazing music without taking yourself too seriously.
‘Deadhead’ was one of the heavier moments of the show but it still had this slow plodding energy to it that made it really easy to get lost in and space out to. Devin’s music is largely built around creating giant soundscapes that are still emotionally driven and show off a lot of musicality without being alienating or coming off cold like many other Prog bands. ‘Deadhead‘ is a journey that spans the breadth of human emotion and is progressive in the sense that there is no other word for it as opposed to fitting into the tropes and conventions of a genre.
The more ambient moments of ‘Deep Peace’ showed the more emotional and empathetic aspects of Devin’s music, the glorious droning synth worked so well with his virtuosic playing as he traded off with Mike Kenneally who played the keyboards and more or less any other instrument the moment called for. The band continued with ‘Heartbreaker’, a very difficult song that Devin says makes it to the setlist because they “want to lose the audience for 5 minutes”. Its arpeggios and shifting tone make it a unique track that is easy to get lost in just listening to it, playing it seems like an absolute nightmare but they played it perfectly.
‘Spirits Will Collide’ is a staple of Devin’s set now and will likely be present for a very long time. This song and ‘Truth’, which came afterwards, helps put into perspective just how big the universe is and how much of a wasted opportunity it is trying to conceive and understand it is and to just bask in how incredible the universe is while we’re still here while enjoying some of the best music we’ve ever created as a species ever. Ever.
Manchester’s show featured a career first for Devin, he played ‘Love’ for the first time without a guitar as Steve Platt, his guitarist during his UK shows in 2023, joined him on stage. Having played this song with a guitar in his hands for thirty years, it must have been a strange experience but he still seemed to have fun as he roamed the stage and slowly figured out what to do with his hands.
To call Devin Townsend unique does him a disservice, his music is wholly unique and there are few musicians like him in the world despite him being so influential. His live shows are a spectacle to behold and his warmth, sense of humour, vulnerability and honesty set him apart from so many cold and distant people in the industry. Protect this man at all costs and support everyone at this show however possible, they all deserve it.