Devin Townsend Project, Contrive @ The Tivoli, Brisbane (12/03/2010)

When Devin Townsend announced the break-up of both Strapping Young Lad and the eponymous Devin Townsend Band in 2007, many thought that the prodigious Canadian singer/guitar/songwriter/producer had finally taken a well earned musical-break. Well, obviously ‘Hevy Devy’ had other plans, chiefly writing a four-album series under the new guise of Devin Townsend Project.

Tonight’s sold out show at The Tivoli is in fact the four-piece’s first headline show, and with a sense of occasion buzzing in the air, most in attendance know that it is going to be a special night indeed.

Opening tonight’s gig is Melbourne’s prog-metaller’s Contrive, who played at The Tivoli in November last year supporting Sweden’s Opeth. Given a longer set than last years show, the three-piece airs numerous tracks of their up-coming album Internal Dialogue, which was conveniently produced by the man of the evening, Mr. Devin Townsend. Frontman Paul Haug ’s vocals are reminiscent of Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell, but when he reaches for the high notes in the clean-sung passages, his voice noticeably falters. While being a tight, energetic band, they simply lack any truly memorable songs, and only receive polite applause from the slowly filling audience.

Townsend and co, however, are greeted by the sound of borderline hysteria from the pack Tivoli, with the title track of last years Addicted! album providing a suitably heavy groove-ridden opener, before moving into the pure bliss of Supercrush! . While the use of female vocals were quite heavy on the aforementioned album, Townsend perfectly sings all the parts, along with his own. To be frank, whether or not you’re a fan of his music, you’d have to be a deaf fool not to admit that Devin has an amazing set of pipes, with every whisper, scream and operatic wail perfectly nailed tonight.

The 19 song setlist encompasses all corners of his strong back-catalogue, with older classics such as Truth and Earthday getting huge crowd reactions. Interestingly the set also heavily weighed on the some-what patchy OTT rock-opera Ziltoid the Omniscient about a coffee obsessed alien/sock puppet warlord, Natch. On the other hand however, the experimental country ballad Ki was surprisingly performed solo by Townsend, showing off his amazing guitar skills with an extended bluesy solo, before moving into a lush section of swept-picked arpeggios – which more than likely gave any guitarists in the crowd a brain-meltdown (this reviewer included).

Almost worth the admission price alone is Townsend’s hilarious stage banter, with the self-deprecating Canadian encompassing topics such as marriage, nano-technology, being a nerd, metal clichés and National Geographic magazine all in about 45 seconds flat.

The only true disappointment tonight is the muddy and overly loud mix, which turned faster songs such as Namaste into a noisy mess – a shame as The Tivoli is usually revered for its quality live sound. Nonetheless, the band ploughs on and tonight’s closer, Bend It Like Bender! , transforms the room into almost a heavy metal rave party, with it’s pure dancibility creating the priceless sight of brutal metal dudes jumping around like 13 year old girls en masse.

With almost two and a half hours on stage, the genius of Devin Townsend is apparent to every one of tonight’s patrons, and surely the musician has only reached the beginning of another, hopefully, very long musical journey. Tonight was not just a great night for metal, but a great night for music.