Concert Reviews

Devin Townsend / Haken Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 28, 2019    
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Devin Townsend / Haken - Rock City, Nottingham (UK) - 13 December 2019

The last time I saw Devin was in April in Leeds, on his 'An Evening With' tour, which featured just him and an electro-acoustic guitar. This show was going to be a bit louder. And, from what I had heard, the stage was going to be a bit less spacious, with a brand-new band of nine accompanying musicians (including ex Zappa alumni Morgan Ågren on drums and Mike Keneally on guitar, and three female backing vocalists). As with the Leeds show, it was also sold out.

Apart from being musically inspired, Devin had also been inspired in his choice of support band. Haken, a proper Prog band, had the honour of opening the night. Most of the audience must have been aware of them as, quite often, the venue isn't full when the first band comes on, which wasn't the case here, and that is particularly notable as the doors opened at 18:00 and they were on just fourty minutes later. A lot of the crowd were singing along with vocalist Ross Jennings on songs such as the choral-esque 'A Cell Divides' and 'Cockroach King,' along with the Gabriel sounding '1985' which saw keyboardist Diego Tejeida (who would also come back to play keyboards and provide drinks for Devin) come to the stage front with his keytar during their fourty-five minute set, which set the tone perfectly for what was to come.

Set list: Puzzle Box, A Cell Divides, Earthrise, Nil By Mouth, Cockroach King, 1985

Devin Townsend's band started to come on at 20:00, one at a time, each wearing Hawaiian shirts and some carrying items including inflatable palm trees with Christmas lights, and a metal owl which was placed in front of the magnificent, elephant painted, triple bass-drum kit. Devin entered the stage last, to rapturous cheering and applause, and with a wide smile on his face and a long "Ahhh". He informed us that this was the last show of this tour and he had been depressed all day for that reason. After a few more words they then started with 'Borderlands' from the Empath album. A strong start, and I would describe the atmosphere as electric, words I haven't used very often (never!). It was obvious right from the start that all on stage were having a great time, which naturally spilt out into the audience. After performing 'War' he stated that tonight was a very different vibe from the previous night in London (which was filmed), and that tonight was "how it should be." I think I knew what he meant, as it was something you could feel, as opposed to seeing or hearing.

To the right of Devin was Ché Aimee Dorval, who has appeared as vocalist on many of Devin's songs. Tonight, she started as guitarist and backing vocalist for (I think) the first three songs, after which she disappeared for a while, to return later having changed into a short black skirt, without the guitar, and did co-lead vocals with Devin. Throughout the show she changed three times in total, and after 'Deadhead' Devin vanished and, not wanting to be upstaged probably, came on in a black lacy skirt to do 'Why' which had the whole room singing along. Devin actually announced an "audience participation" time before playing 'Animals', where he asked the crowd to do the "jazz hands" during the chorus, but he stopped half-way through as the people on the balcony hadn't joined in, after which they had no choice really. The main set was brought to an end by all four girls at stage front singing 'Spirits Will Collide', which saw a brilliant song performed exquisitely.

On returning to the stage for the encore, they surprised everybody by doing the Trammps song 'Disco Inferno' with Ché on main vocals. It then went a little strange as they played the Zappa song 'Black Page #1' followed by 'Seagulls', which Mike told me to look up on YouTube under 'Seagulls, Bad Lip Reading'. The evening was then brought to a close with 'Kingdom' and the whole audience singing along, with the whole band doing the can-can on stage before leaving.

Quite simply, this concert was excellent, from start to finish. There really wasn't any highlights as the whole thing was just that. Everyone on stage were excellent at what they did, and Devin actually said that this line up, crew and lighting set up is exactly as it should be, but it's very expensive and not sustainable at this time in his career, but hopes it will be in the future. A sobering thought and the only down point of the whole evening. I do think however, and sincerely hope, that with the support he obviously already has, that he will achieve his goal. For music and entertainment value, everybody should have a Devin in their lives.

Setlist: Borderlands, Evermore, War, Sprite, Coast, Gato, Heaven Send, Ain't Never Gonna Win, Deadhead, Why? Lucky Animals, Genesis, Spirits Will Collide.
Encore: Disco Inferno (The Trammps), The Black Page #1 (Frank Zappa), Seagulls, Kingdom.

Review and photos by Andy Brailsford

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