DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT
It's been a while since I last caught Amplifier live - around four and a half years ago supporting Porcupine Tree to be precise. I remember being incredibly impressed with their atmospheric post-rock/metal, stoner-infused prog tunes and, tonight, opening for Devin Townsend in the ULU, they remind me exactly why. Airing a selection of tracks from latest album 'The Octopus' and a couple from their eponymously titled debut, the majority of the audience remain rather static although seem to be quite absorbed by the band's material. Considering the majority of the songs are either down-tempo (such as 'The Wave') or mid-tempo when the pace picks up a little ('Interstellar'), their performance is impressively energetic, and bassist Neil Mahony is notably dynamic in his stage moves as he throws both his body and instrument around the limited space he has. Frontman Sel Balamir, now sporting short hair, also sustains visual interest during instrumental passages, striking several dramatic poses while playing his axe. All in all, a fantastic set from the most underrated of bands.
Friday 11th November 2011
ULU in London, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT
The eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 2011 - 11/11/11 - a unique date in the calendar with a numerical singularity that will undoubtedly have numerologists formulating all kinds of deranged theories and absurd philosophising about what the significance of such a day means. For a whole horde of Devin Townsend fans, however, it does actually signify the day of a special and most unique event for it's the date of the second performance of the DTP's run of four gigs in the UK's capital where the 'Addicted' album is to be aired in its entirety. And the night is made extra special with the promised participation of vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and guitarist Mark Cimino alongside the regular members from Devin's live band - Brian Waddell, Ryan van Poederooyen and Dave Young. By 9pm, their scheduled stage time, the atmosphere in the ULU is veritably electrifying and rife with eager anticipation amongst the 800+ mass of sweaty bodies crammed inside the sold out venue. With Amplifier overrunning slightly and ensuing technical problems indicated by a crew member who climbs down into the photopit several times to check each of the stage monitors, fans must wait a little longer which only seems to increase their voracity ahead of the DTP's appearance. As if prepared for such a long delay and geared up to alleviate any concomitant risk of boredom, a series of inventively Photoshopped images are projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage, each greeted with cheers and laughter, which basically involve Devin's face superimposed on pictures in a whole array of scenarios including a scene from 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial', Death's 'Spiritual Healing' album artwork, the Queen of England, and all five of the Spice Girls. All of that to the accompaniment of an eclectic mix of tunes courtesy of DJ Ziltoid with the likes of Lou Bega and ABBA engendering a little bit a dancing in the crowd. As time passes by and the delay continues, the wacky images suddenly disappear on their third loop, and Ziltoid materialises on the screen to introduce and bop along to some Eurodance anthems - the sound of 'I'm A Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)' blasting through the PA even prompts one security guy by the side of the photopit to lean across and stare at the screen for a few moments with a confused glance to see what sonic/visual insanity is taking place behind him. Eventually, at around 9:40pm, with Ziltoid still babbling away, Devin and co. appear to deafening screams, cheers and applause...
With 'Addicted' tracks performed in the order they appear on the album, the core of tonight's set is, unsurprisingly, rather predictable. However, predictability matters not for the 800+ Devin fans in the ULU this evening, three of whom are attired in crayon suits as per the album cover, and many travelling from abroad for the occasion. No, certainly not, predictability gives way to mutual revelry from the first bars of the title track to the closing moments of 'Awake!!'. In direct contrast to the expectedly subdued reaction engendered by the generally mellower, restrained 'Ki' material the previous night (albeit each song rapturously received at both their opening bar and climax), this Friday night audience, of which many have returned for a second dose of Devin, now have something they can uninhibitedly lose themselves in and go crazy to the up-tempo, heavy groove and melodies that embellish most of the tracks. And go crazy they do with bouncing bodies en masse and fists pumping the air at rhythmically opportune moments. Only 'Ih-Ah!' with its slower tempo provides the crowd with a short breather. Musically, everything is executed flawlessly with a dynamic performance to match the up-tempo and melodically upbeat nature of the tunes. Devin's expressive face contorts into his usual array of grins, gurns and growls throughout, and his interactions with Anneke are a sheer joy to witness - two people who look so utterly comfortable and harmoniously compatible on the same stage. What's even more remarkable is that Anneke only performed at Brixton Academy a couple of hours previously as opening act for Within Temptation but she oozes composure, elegance and energy in equal measure, and is note perfect with each and every lyric she vocalises in the ULU. It must've been something of a rush to travel through London between venues but her professionalism reigns. An ever so slightly below par sound through the PA is perhaps a little disappointing but this in no way seems to mar anyone's enjoyment of the awesomeness of the 'Addicted' songs that are performed with an infectious enthusiasm this evening. And the 45 or so minutes of 'Addicted' material seems to pass by in a flash, such is the thoroughly absorbing qualities of both the music and its triumphant execution. Never one to short change fans, after the pre-encore formality of exiting the stage, Devin returns after a couple of minutes with all band members, Anneke included, for renditions of 'Synchestra' track 'Pixellate', 'Life' from 'Ocean Machine: Biomech' and a heavy end to the evening with 'Physicist' number 'Kingdom'. Tonight has been possibly one of the best shows I've ever had the pleasure of attending. Pure awesomeness.
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