By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Matt Nielson)
April 28th 2017, The Glass House, Pomona CA: The ever-adventurous, ever-prolific Canadian musician and composer Devin Townsend released ‘Transcendence’, the latest album under The Devin Townsend Project name, in 2016. Following a Europe tour earlier this year, he is now on a U.S. mini-tour in support of the album, playing a short string of headline dates with opening acts Thank You Scientist and Oni, leading into a run where DTP themselves will open for Opeth and Gojira for a few shows. This tour started at The Glass House in Pomona, California last Friday April 28th, and the “Pomonians”, as Devin Townsend kept calling them, came out in large numbers in high expectance of the kind of show only he and his band can deliver.
Even on this Friday evening, doors opened as early as 6:30 and the show started promptly at 7:30, as Devin Townsend’s fellow countrymen in Oni took the stage for a highly impressive 30-minute set. This progressive metal band from Ontario, fronted by and named after vocalist Jake Oni, has been one of the fastest rising bands in the genre, owing to a splendid 2016 debut record ‘Ironshore’ which came out via Metal Blade, and some excellently chosen tours opening for bigger acts. To many who’ve seen or heard of them, they’re known as that band with the xylosynth player, but their set here in Pomona was one of several examples where they proved themselves to be much more than just that. The xylosynth is a mere segment of their overall sound, and the band’s most striking sonic features actually come from the harsh-to-clean lead vocal range, the clean vocal harmonies, and the insane fretboard play by the bearers of the three headless stringed instruments. Oni certainly got the entire crowd on their side, although a good portion were already fans of this band. Whether by accident or by design, Devin Townsend has landed upon the perfect opening act for this mini-tour.
Of course, we made sure we arrived at this show in time to catch Oni’s set, but it came at a price, because as enjoyable as Oni was, Thank You Scientist was equally as painful, if not more. There was a clear mismatch between this band’s vocalist’s ultra-clean singing style and his bandmates’ chaotic instrumentation which included a horn section, for good measure. For the most part it sounded like Geddy Lee singing over a noisy hodgepodge of free-form jazzy prog, the kind of musicianship that gives prog a bad name. It was painstakingly confusing to even attempt to decipher what this band was trying to do or to imagine their creative thought process, and this confusion was all the more profound in their live performance. The less said about this band, the better. No, Thank You.
After what seemed like an eternity through Thank You Scientist’s 40-minute set, finally at 9:40 it was time for Devin Townsend, as he and his band arrived with a bang, opening the set with the 2014 tune ‘Rejoice’. This 14-song set only included three tracks from the latest album ‘Transcendence’, and the remainder was a wild mix of the DTP discography, and also touched upon Devin’s solo career and the Devin Townsend Band. Many bands that have been in existence for at least two decades tour every year with almost exactly the same set list, collect their money and go home, and strangely enough, no one seems to expect any more or different from them. Thankfully, Devin Townsend is not one of them, and not only was this set list fresh, it also presented some songs even diehards and longtime followers did not expect to hear.
Tunes like ‘Hyperdrive!’ and ‘Supercrush!’ were every bit as powerful as their exclamatory titles would suggest, and the show ended extremely strongly with ‘Higher’, ‘Grace’ and ‘Kingdom’. But the single standout highlight of the show was most definitely the acoustic number ‘Ih-Ah!’, showcasing Devin solo in all his glory. It ever there was such a thing as the best guilty pleasure song for a metalhead, this would be it, without any doubt, and to experience it live, “the most un-metal thing you’ll ever see on this stage” as Devin proudly proclaimed, was just the cherry on top of a performance that was already much more worth than the $25 and the 20-mile drive for LA area folks. If you claim to have not enjoyed the live version of this song, you are lying.
Besides the choice of songs and the incredibly precise and bombastic sound of the whole band on stage, Devin was in his element with his crowd banter, an integral part of any DTP show and had the audience in splits from the moment he stepped on stage to when he walked off it. He comes up with jokes that no one else does or can, and it is humanly quite impossible to not be entertained at a Devin Townsend show.
More than anything, this show (for the umpteenth time) vindicated Devin Townsend’s belief in and dedication to DTP as a band and a project, because the seven-album material can almost completely carry a full 90-minute headline set, and carry it brilliantly with undeniable success. So, Devin is not stuck in his past, and neither should his fans be, because modern-day Devin Townsend is alive and well, and here to stay.
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Devin Townsend set list:
07. Where We Belong
08. Ziltoid Goes Home
09. March of the Poozers
Devin Townsend remaining tour dates:
05/02/2017 – St Louis, MO @ The Ready Room +
05/04/2017 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues +
05/05/2017 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr Smalls +
05/06/2017 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Electric Factory *
05/07/2017 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom *
05/09/2017 – Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre *
05/11/2017 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre *
05/12/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ Arvest bank Theater at The Midland *
05/13/2017 – Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room at Old National Centre *
05/14/2017 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s %
+ = w/ Thank You Scientist, Oni
* = w/ Opeth, Gojira
% = w/ Thank You Scientist