Review: Devin Townsend at Metropolis Fremantle
Canadian prog-metal legend Devin Townsend kicked off his Australian tour in Perth last Wednesday at a sold out Metropolis Fremantle, supported by local lads Chaos Divine.
Devin Townsend is one of a kind. Over a career that has spanned some 30 years and almost as many albums, Townsend has never let genres limit his musical imagination. Instead, he follows where the music itself wants to lead him, all with a firm commitment to not take himself too seriously.
Touring his current album Lightwork, written during and in response to the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, a full-band, full-volume tour was cathartic for performers and punters alike.
The line forming outside the venue and up the street before the doors opened was an encouraging sign that the crowd was just as eager to take in Chaos Divine’s epic brand of progressive metal as they were for the headline act. With the floor already full by the time they took the stage, the band lived up to their name, balancing soaring melodies with ferocious riffs and grooves, earning a solid power-nod from the punters at the back of the room.
Welcome inclusions in the set were Silence and At The Ringing Of the Siren from their 2011 album The Human Connection, ahead of the highly-anticipated video release of them performing the album in full. It was easy to see why Chaos Divine have earned their place as one of Perth’s most creative and sonically ambitious bands.
As the lights and the ambient synth interlude between sets went down, Devin Townsend stepped out on stage with all the warmth and fun of greeting a room full of old friends. Known for being as charming as he is talented, he immediately began joking with the crowd, asking “Who here’s just stepped off a 37 hour flight?”
After insisting that they needed a couple of songs to revive their brains from feeling like mush after so long in transit, they opened the show with a big warm hug in Lightworker, followed by the thundering epic Kingdom. In between verses, Townsend took the time to move around the entire stage, greeting the crowd section by section with a wave and a massive, genuine smile. This was a man thrilled to be on stage amongst about a thousand friends.
Townsend continued to joke with the crowd as the crew set up a theremin at the front of the stage in preparation for playing Dimensions, before diving into his extensive back catalogue. “When life gets tough you need a shitty gimmick, and there’s no shittier gimmick than a theremin,” he joked. While Devin was making a spectacle of playing the strange warbling antenna, the song gave multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally a chance to shine across guitar and synth, recreating the recording’s digital chaos note-perfect.
If the heft and force arrived in Dimensions, they kept it up to play Deadhead, bringing their unique brand of relentless, gripping heaviness with measured intensity.
Maintaining the intensity, but bringing back the levity, Townsend took a moment during By Your Command to reassure the audience that it was going to get a little weird. Getting the whole room swaying their arms in time to the riffs, he reassured us all that nobody in the building was there to take themselves too seriously when playing songs about an alien in search of the ultimate cup of coffee.
During the second verse of Deep Peace, the room lit up with the lights from the crowd’s phones—a move that he assured us he definitely didn’t explicitly ask for. That sense of humour continued through the band, contriving a moment to playfully improvise on the guitar solo, taking it in unpredictable, tongue-in-cheek directions before locking back in and finishing the song on a signature Devin Townsend big wall of sound, once again invoking the time-honoured metal power nod from the crowd.
The signature walls of sound continued with Spirits Will Collide—a song which he dedicated to anyone that had lost a loved one to depression—wrapping the room in the warmth and all-embracing positivity that has permeated so much of his work.
The show shifted gears at this point, bringing in the hectic, relentless pace of Almost Again, and kept it going for Aftermath. The entertainer persona dropped for a moment as the band locked in to demonstrate the raw power and intensity of the material.
Why? provided a natural moment of theatrics, whimsy and relief from the brutality of the heavier material, followed by Truth. The band took a moment in the long intro to playfully mess around on stage without breaking the groove, all while they bounced a planet earth balloon back and forth with the crowd. Closing the main set with Bad Devil, the band showed us that they clearly absolutely love what they do.
Townsend then poked fun at the tired ritual of leaving the stage before an obvious encore. “We’re going to leave the stage and pretend we’re not coming back. Bye! Go fuck yourself!”
He returned with an acoustic guitar to play Ih! Ah! with help from the crowd, before the whole band joined him on stage in dinosaur and dragon onesies and a giant rabbit head to play Love?
At that moment of mutual understanding that this was the actual end to the show, Townsend showed his deep appreciation for the crowd’s dedication and joy. “Thank you so much for continually supporting my stupid shit,” he said. Judging by the crowd's response on the night, Townsend can count on that support as long as he keeps at it.
Photos by Adrian Thomson