Devin Townsend Project, Contrive @ Billboard The Venue, Melbourne (14/03/2010)

Check out photos from the gig here

The last time Devin Townsend was in Australia was back in 1997, on tour with his extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad (now no longer in existence). Back in Oz for his first tour under the name The Devin Townsend Project, the man people call Hevy Devy, has been quite the popular topic in conversation in the lead up to his tour. Townsend’s show at Billboard promised to deliver the progressive and ambient quality of sound he’s known for; and we his audience were ready to take a ride on the Devin Townsend train of chaos.

Melbourne’s Contrive opened the show, having just completed their second album, The Internal Dialogue. Due out in April, it was mixed by Devin Townsend himself over in his native Canada, with the band playing a solid set that gave a taste of what to expect from the album through tracks such as Is this the Way? and The Internal Dialogue.

As Contrive packed up their equipment, we were treated to a few jokes from a mischievous little alien dubbed Ziltoid The Omniscient, whose voice suddenly came on over the speakers. Then, much to the surprise of many, some cheesy late 90s pop tracks by the Vengaboys, Aqua (insert massive fits of laughter here) and Lou Bega were blasted out of the speakers, followed by the more contemporary sounds of Beyonce and Gwen Stefani. What a perfect introduction for a Heavy Metal artist! There was a mixture of grunts, moans and laughter coming from the punters, but it wasn’t long before there was some singing and serious dancing going on!

The interval was shorter than your average gig, and before we knew it Devin (dressed in a suit and doc martens) and his crew: Brian Waddell (bass), Dave Young (guitar) and Ryan Van Poederooyen (drums), stepped out onto the stage to a massive applause.

“Hello Ladies & Germs,” shouted Townsend. “We came here to rock, so let’s f**ken rock!” before launching right into the smashingly awesome, electronically driven Addicted.

From the beginning of his set, you could tell that this guy was an engaging performer. By the fourth song, Truth, it was evident that this was going to be one intense show. It was a mind-warping experience to say the least. An experience where your imagination ran away from you and you had to figure out what the song is actually about. In between the defending of nerds “don’t be afraid to be a nerd” and the declaration that this is the coolest thing he’s done since “all those years of changing diapers full of piss and shit,” Devin and co. pulled out all the stops and the crowd’s eyes were glued to the stage, almost never looking away.

The end of each song was applauded with huge screams and roars and after almost two hours, they ended with Namaste. When they finished the song, Townsend said they needed to take a break and would be back soon. Merely a minute later, he and his band returned, with Townsend yelling “MELBOURNE ARE YOU READY FOR MORE HEAVY F**KING MUSIC?”, before mumbling something,then turning around and farting into the microphone! It was on that note that they kicked off their encore with Colour Your Word.

Towards the end of The Greys, the rest of the band departed the stage, leaving Townsend to perform Ki under a single spotlight. Having been rejoined by his band, he then finished off the show with Bend It Like Bender!. One rarely witnesses a gig that is both deep and as weird at the same time, full of epic songs (and by epic I mean huge, looooong songs) that have a hidden, positive message thrown into the lyrics to be decoded. Intricate melodies were followed by heavier and harder riffs and soft vocals were followed by loud and fierce screams. Townsend’s eccentric on-stage persona (or should I say personas), contributed immensely to their overall performance. It is obvious he is a musical chameleon and he gave his word to his fans he’d be back again next year.