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Live Reviews : An Evening With Devin Townsend @ The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, 14/09/2019

By on September 15, 2019

Images: Ben Gunzberg
Words: Rod Whitfield

Second night in Melbourne at the Thornbury after a sold-out first night a week or so ago, and second review for this lucky writer. The great man expresses concern and insecurity about repeating himself for the people who’ve come for a second bite of this very, very sweet cherry, even joking about a fictitious website called ‘limitedrepertoire.com’, which draws many laughs. He needn’t worry, I am here for both and do not feel for one instant that he is simply re-hashing himself.

And speaking of drawing many laughs, this show is about that almost as much as it is about the music. The bloke probably could have had a career as a stand-up.

For those unfamiliar with the roughly hewn format of this show, it goes a little like this: Devin saunters onto the stage, beaming as if he is once again surprised that so many people have ventured out to see him, gives a few off the cuff opening remarks about his guitar being out of tune or whatever it happens to be that night, and then proceeds to utterly spellbind the audience with messed-up but thoroughly compelling and beautiful versions of tunes drawn from many phases of his illustrious back catalogue, songs that were written and released acoustically such as stuff from the Ghost and Casualties of Cool records, through to tracks that were originally electrified, full band monstrosities like Deadhead, which he plays on call, Hyperdrive and Strapping Young Lad’s Love. The pure pop wonder of Ih Ah is always a pleasure.

And everything works a treat, with a single voice and guitar. Said voice and guitar sound so sweet it veritably brings a tear to the eye.

The musical set goes for around an hour. He then sets the guitar aside and begins the ‘spoken word’ part of the set, which is driven by written questions from various audience members. Tonight he answers questions about everything from the worst bowel movement he has every experienced through to his views on religion, Jungian philosophy, drug addiction, requisite dull, predictable questions about what he thinks about the new Tool album (which he handles with great patience and humour) and much, much more.

Then he takes a well-earned break during which 700 metalheads, entirely unused to sitting on their arses on cushy chairs for so long at gigs, get to go stretch their legs and guzzle as much beer as they can squeeze into 25 minutes.

The second set is a couple of tunes, more enthralling, self piss-taking chit-chat, and he finishes the night, very appropriately, with a triumphant rendition of the iconic Life, from his first true solo release Ocean Machine/Biomech. After well over three hours, an elated crowd shuffles out, back into the cool Melbourne early spring evening.

What a privilege to witness this show. To do it twice, doubly so. One gets the very strong feeling that these appearances may be rare. Indeed, it’s taken him well over twenty years to do it for the first time. Will it be another twenty before we see it again? Who knows, but for now we have these shows to savour.

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.