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Saturday 15th December 2012
HMV Ritz in Manchester, UK
Reviews by Siân Williams & Mark Holmes; Photography by Mark Holmes
As someone who hasn’t listened to Fear Factory for some ten years, anything post-‘Digimortal’ was always going to be a bit foreign to me. Luckily, and as they mentioned on numerous occasions during the set, they were playing some new songs and playing some old songs. This not only left the half-arsed listener who was familiar with them during their more popular periods feel less alienated but also introduced us to a new era of the band. The vocals may have been patchy in places but there was a lot of love among the industrial fans for a band who helped shaped the genre in the 90s. The hardcore fans helped lift the mood during the more “obscure” moments, with certain crowd members singing every song word for word throughout, but during songs such as ‘Linchpin’ (which has now been ruined for me forever by someone, who shall remain nameless, whispering to me that it sounds like Burton’s singing “Dad, give me your porn”. Thanks…. Thanks) and ‘What Will I Become?’ the whole crowd rallied together and, literally, made the floor jump due to some less than sturdy floor boards. Some of the patchier moments can be somewhat forgiven given the length of the run they’ve been on this tour and it didn’t seem to bother any of the fans present at the HMV Ritz and, let’s face it, the songs are strong enough on their own merits for the small details to be overlooked which is surely what really counts. They managed to do it without taking themselves 100% seriously as well - Dino might have got stick for being, how should I put it… a “larger” gentleman, but it was all done in good spirit. It’s enough to have given me some inspiration to not leave it another ten years before I listen to them again and to make the teenage version of me pretty happy at the same time. There were no gimmicks here; it’s just pure, stripped back industrial metal and they could safely save all the faff for what was to come next… (SW)
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Shortly after co-headliners Fear Factory finish and Devin Townsend Project roadies get to work setting everything up, eager fans are kept amused and appeased by a montage of randomly bizarre clips that are projected onto the back of the stage. But it's Devin and his fellow comrades who people await so when the lights dim and DTP members appear, the sold out HMV Ritz erupts into a deafening roar of excited cheers. The man himself kicks everything off with the opening palm-muted chords of 'Supercrush!' before exclaiming, "let's have a good night." And a good night of pre-Christmas frivolity, fun and diverse set of innovative music drawn from the Canadian's huge back catalogue is what follows. Well, make that a ridiculously fantastic night...this man seems incapable of delivering anything but a show of unmitigated merriment and quality music and, tonight, Manchester is no exception. Devin's his usual energetic self with a heavy dose of batty humour hurled at the audience between songs, and in fine voice with a pitch-perfect, powerful delivery. Even when an unidentified substance suddenly materialises towards the top of his jacket a few songs in, rather than discretely wipe it away, he identifies the fluid for all present - "That's snot, ladies and gentlemen!" He then incorporates the spontaneous nasal emanation into a routine about Canadian courting rituals as he acts out meeting ladies and impressing them with some mucus snorting.

The setlist is a pleasingly varied one with a nicely balanced mix of the old and the new to please established fans and newcomers alike with one or two surprises thrown in along the way. Five songs are from latest album 'Epicloud', including the debut live airing of 'Save Our Now' and what's fast becoming the ultimate Devin party track, 'Lucky Animals' (complete with audience participation with a ubiquitous display of "jazz hands" in the air for every utterance of the "and they're lucky" lyric). 'Infinity' numbers 'Truth' and 'War' are more than welcome (a sentiment shared by many judging by audience reactions), 'Planet of the Apes'/'Juular' from 'Deconstruction' also incite mass crowd movement, as does the ever-popular 'Vampira'. And it's always an utter pleasure to hear 'Deep Peace' in a live context with its mellower build-up towards Devin's emotionally captivating neo-classical leads. A burst of up-tempo 'Epicloud' rock wraps up a pre-encore set in the form of 'Liberation' before amusing band introductions (including the proclamation that guitarist Dave Young's beard isn't actually that big, rather it's mainly a huge chin with a little bit of stubble), the aforementioned 'Save Our Now' and then party-piece 'Bad Devil'. Devin invites a couple of peeps from the audience up onto the stage during the latter, one dressed as a banana and, aptly, one as the devil, and at the track's climax (complete with Maiden-esque outro), he looks into the crowd and says, "I forgot about bunny rabbit!", so up hops the rabbit too. With a strict venue curfew of 10pm tonight, it's at least ten minutes over that by the time the DTP finish but who would've dared stop the party? It's a shame it has to stop when it does but all good things must come to an end and with nearly an hour and a half of the DTP, preceded as they were by the industrial metal might of Fear Factory, it's undoubtedly been one of the gigs of the year and the most awesome of ways to end another gigging year as 2012 nears its end. (MH)
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Devin Townsend at the HMV Ritz in Manchester, UK, 15th December 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
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