You could summarise this evening as ‘Canadian singer songwriter Devin Townsend performs an intimate acoustic set’ but that would be only half the story. Yes he sings his own songs on an acoustic guitar, but the originals are often derived from multi-layered works that involve everything from choirs to orchestras to full on death metal. So cast aside any images of folky twangy campfire singalongs. Though there may be a bit of that in there too. Briefly.
The first thing to note is that Townsend’s acoustic guitar comes backed by a laptop and enough rack unit effects to ensure that there is the required sustain, delay and ambience to transport the listener on those interstellar journeys he takes you on. Secondly his voice; as ‘stripped down’ as this set up is, without all the layers of drums and keyboards, his singing is allowed to take centre stage, from extreme guttural to a celestial falsetto and back, often within the same verse, and to follow his own internal dynamics without the structure of a band or click track. So overall the songs feel more fluid and organic, a rare treat.
First song of the night is ‘Why‘ off his most recent album ‘Empath‘, an audience request no less. You get the impression that he wasn’t fully prepared to play this particular song, but given the setting he jumps in, and it’s wonderful. Even when he misses a note and breaks off to bark at himself for the near miss. It only serves to bring the audience closer.
It’s a recurring theme through the night, mistakes are joked about and he chats with freely and easily about just about everything. During the two Q&A sessions which bracket the music, the questions posed by the audience vary from ‘What’s your favourite badger?’ to dealing with various artistic neuroses. Devin is consistently open, honest, not afraid to bear his own insecurities and often very funny.
By the time we get to set closer ‘Life’ we all feel like we know the man and his music just that little bit better, and as much as his fans will be eagerly awaiting his return with full band, and all the bells and whistles in December, there’s something about the intimacy of these shows that makes them truly special.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.