On October 27th, progressive metal icon Devin Townsend adorned The Note in West Chester, PA, to perform classics from his entire discography. Although the audience was relatively (and unfairly) small, Devin put his heart and soul into each second of his set, which was a fantastic mixture of his heavy, soft, funny and tragic sides.
Opening for Townsend were Periphery and TesseracT, two heavy bands that, honestly, could've been skipped. The problem with live performance is that sometimes the sound is so intense, it's hard to discern that music. That's what happened with these two acts; the musicianship was obviously incredible (especially Periphery, who were surprisingly young) but it all sounded like a mess of noise. However, their studio work is a lot more interesting, so the fault lies in their production, not their playing. Even so, it was still somewhat enjoyable and engaging, and they humbly thanked Devin for allowing them to play with him. And when Devin took the stage the place went crazy.
Dressed in a charcoal gray suit, Devin came out smiling, joking and thanking his audience. It's welcoming to see a man so gifted be so humble (he has every right to be a pretentious egomaniac if he wanted). One of the most fascinating aspects about Townsend's music is its density; he produces the hell out of his tracks, creating what is commonly referred to as his "wall of sound." And while he couldn't replicate the songs perfectly live, he did a commendable job by programming various vocal overdubs and sound effects over the show.
Case in point: Townsend surprised and delighted everyone by playing one of his most complex tracks, "Earth Day," with an impressive mixture of live music and computerized aid. As a universally adored track from his massive catalogue (it single handedly shows why, in many fan's minds, Townsend is a genius), the crowd sang along with every part (of which there are several). And of course Townsend couldn't get away with not playing select tracks from Ziltoid (his concept album about an alien puppet who conquers earth for a cup of coffee). Displaying excellent dynamics, he replicated "Color Your World" and "The Greys" well.
Other highlights include the opener to the show, "Addicted" (from his last album), "Life," "Kingdom," "Deadhead, "Truth," and "Bad Devil." Townsend was happy to pose for cameras every chance he got, relishing in his fanbase and mocking himself with silly facial expressions and profane ad-libs. In the middle of the set, the band took the break because, according to Devin, all four members had to pass feces. While this may sound childish (it is), moments like these exemplify why Townsend is not only a fascinating artist, but also just a fun guy to be around. While it's clear that he's proud of his unique music, Townsend realizes that he'd be nowhere without his fans, and that the point of life is to enjoy every second of it and not take things too seriously. By combining brilliant, intricate music with humorous concepts and a friendly, goofy persona, he is a lot like a modern day Frank Zappa.
Unfortunately, Townsend completely neglected Synchestra (his true tour-de-force) and Ki (the first part of the four album concept of The Devin Townsend Project). It's surprising that he didn't at least play "Ki" (another track that single handedly displays his genius) and "Vampira" (his silly and awesome homage to cult classic horror movies). As is the case with many great artists, for every stellar song he did play, there were a dozen more he should have.
Townsend closed the set with "Deep Peace" from Terria (his most personal album; many consider it his masterpiece) and then wished his audience a safe trip home. Throughout the show, he reminded everyone to appreciate how great life is and to just have a good time. Standing in the intimate small space of The Note with other fans watching one of our favorite artists mere feet away from us, it was impossible not to.