Soho’s Borderline is fast becoming one of my favourite venues. Not only is it right next to Crowbar, one of the best places for post gig drinks in London, but I’ve had the chance to be within touching distance of some seriously good bands that have come to play its tiny stage. This was definitely one of those nights; an acoustic gig booked to give one of metal’s most eclectic musicians a chance to warm up before headlining the Pepsi Max Stage at Download festival.
Once the interview I conducted with Devin Townsend had concluded, I plonked myself in front of the stage and waited for Danny Cavanagh [3.5] to appear. The Anathema guitarist seemed extremely pleased that the crowd actually knew who he was and opened up with a cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’, before pressing into a set that was split pretty much equally between a wide range of covers (including a great singalong of Tenacious D’s ‘Tribute’) and Anathema songs. Much of his sound was achieved through profuse loop pedal use, allowing Danny to replicate songs surprisingly accurately despite only being armed with a single acoustic guitar. His final song, ‘Thin Air’ was definitely the climax of the set with the added bonus of his brother Vincent (Anathema’s singer) climbing up on stage for vocal duties. Equal parts warm up and chill out, Danny’s set definitely piqued my interest.
I don’t try to hide how much of a Devin Townsend [5/5] fan I am, but even when you make allowances for my obvious fanboyism he played an absolutely top-notch set. Following an onstage projection of a seemingly endless montage of photoshops involving him (Devin’s head replacing Alien’s chestburster is something that’ll haunt me for a long time) he calmly wandered on stage to a roar of approval that rapidly increased as the crowd caught sight of him. From the first bars of ‘Let It Roll’ Devin’s guitar sound was absolutely perfect – you could almost feel it wash over the crowd and, they with gushes of enthusiasm after every song.
To be fair, Devin was obviously playing to his own crowd; when he screwed up and played a wrong chord in the middle of ‘Terminal’ he was greeted with cheers and was even given enough time to quickly relearn ‘Noisy Pink Bubbles’ on stage before performing it. His connection to the audience was a huge part of this: his setlist was pretty much constructed by asking for requests and his great onstage charisma and self-effacing humour are the perfect compliments to his music. Take ‘Juular’; not only did he manage to perform a pretty damn good version of a seriously complex song on an acoustic but he also made the audience burst into laughter by chanting “blast beat blast beat blast beat” over its break-neck paced bridge. There was also the surprise of Devin agreeing to perform a Strapping Young Lad song (queue the cries of “ZOMG SYL reformation confirmed!”). While ‘Satan’s Ice Cream Truck’ live is, to be honest, a better concept than reality, it was preceded by ‘Back Where We Belong’ from upcoming album Epicloud. It made a very intriguing teaser for the album, with a sound that was fairly similar to some of the more pop/rocky songs from Devin’s past such as ‘Slow Me Down’ and ‘Christeen’.
Just in case it wasn’t clear from the last few paragraphs of unbridled praise I really, really enjoyed this gig. While this wasn’t exactly the most metulz night I’ve been to I am already booked up for the Devin Townsend Project’s tour this October and you should be too.
Devin Townsend’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dvntownsend