Townsend, Devin: The Retinal Circus
If I was disappointed that circumstances meant that I had to pass up the opportunity to witness the live Devin Townsend experience when he last visited Scotland, then having it compounded by discovering just how stunningly good his latest live offering, The Retinal Circus, is, verges on devastating. This is, in short, stunningly good stuff and even without having seen the DVD/Bluray version, there's no denying how scintillating this set is. Townsend is and has always been a prolific artist and attempting to piece together songs from throughout his lengthy "solo" career and working them into some sort of conceptually pleasing piece, may appear folly. However this is Devin Townsend we are talking about here, so as expected, somehow it all seamlessly fits together like it was made this way. Having the pre-recorded voice/video of guitar god Steve Vai link many of the songs helps, as well as entertains and for those investing in (as I shall) the DVD or Bluray version, watching a number of circus performers linking the themes can't hurt either.
However what shines strongest here is one thing, well two actually. No make that three.... firstly Townsend is a songwriter par excellence, whether it be focused on crushing riff led crashings, keyboard created chaos, or deeply melodic washes, he seldom if ever misses the mark. Secondly this band, including Townsend (obviously) on guitars and vocals, Dave Young and guest Jed Simon on guitars, Brian Waddell on bass, Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums and guest vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, is a collection of musicians right at the top of their game and thirdly the self deprecating humour from Townsend throughout, merely makes the whole performance even more endearing. Comments such as "crowd participation, this is easy, this is (Mettalica's) "Seek And Destroy", we ripped it off!!!" during "Vampira", or that those who had listened to Death Metal that day were excused from the waving your arms in the air "shit", or the pre-recorded video of Vai reminding the band that they'd missed their cue, prompting Devy to scream "Shit!!!!" before charging headlong into the next track, all showing the humour that infuses most of DT's output in some form or other. On that front Devy's alter-ego puppet Ziltoid also shows up with his usual sense of bad taste, bringing more controlled craziness to proceedings, while still prefacing some great music. You could argue over the track selection, but the albums Epicloud, Deconstruction, Infinty, Ziltoid The Omniscient, Synchestra, Addicted, City, Ocean Machine: Biomech, Physicist, Alien and Epiclouder are all represented, meaning that unusually and pleasingly Strapping Young Lad also get a look in. Add to all that a superb live vibe, where the crowd are heard, but don't intrude and a stunning sound and The Retinal Circus is one of those rare things these days, a genuinely must have live release.
I'm off to buy the DVD right now, although even at a prime price I am tempted by the (as stated in the press release) "fucking amazing diehard fan box", which contains... 2CDs, 2DVDs, 1Bluray, 40 page book, polaroid of Townsend, postcard, a Devy face mask, guitar pick, signed print, LP sized pop up Retinal Circus stage set(!), a lenticular cover, a die-cut box, 30 minutes of behind the scenes footage and full live show commentary (phew!!!!!!). No matter which version you plump for, you won't be left wanting.
1. Effervescent!/True North
2. Lucky Animals
3. Planet of the Apes
6. Soul Driven
7. Planet Smasher
12. Color Your World
13. The Greys
3. Where We Belong
5. Bend It Like Bender!
10. Colonial Boy"
12. Little Pig
Added: October 4th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Hevy Devy Online
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