So, tonight, I went and saw Devin Townsend at a local club. This venue is sort of a small-mid-size venue if that makes any sense. I've played there with my old band, opening for bigger tours (some may remember the live videos I posted, like, a year and a half ago ). At any rate, it's a nice open room with really decent sound (especially now that they have a Venue board in there ). There were maybe 100 people there total, and that's a very rough estimate.
I didn't find out about the VIP option until it was too late to get tickets, so I didn't get to attend the meet-and-greet with Devin, or the acoustic set
So, first band were the local openers, guys I know from other bands, in a really...weird...sort of...prog-death...jazz...I dunno, but whatever it is, it kind of works, some of the time
Next up was Tesseract. I'd only heard one song by them previously, and they opened with it They sounded very, very solid, and their singer has quite an incredible voice. I think he blew 2 notes, near the end, out of a very challenging set. Guitars sounded really good (6505s for dirty, Axe-FX/POD X3 Pro for cleans), the bassist was really impressive, and the drums were nice and punchy and very solid. Overall, it was very atmospheric stuff, like...metal to space out to But very cool, and very tight.
Finally the man himself: Devin Townsend.
First, for the gear nerds (of which there were many in attendance ):
Everything was run direct. Everything. Both guitarists using their own Axe-FX (didn't check Dave's closely to see if it was Ultra or Standard, doesn't really matter), and the bassist using only a Sansamp rackmount. The really interesting thing: Devin's pedalboard. He had the Fractal pedalboard. Yeah, it looked sweet. He had 3 expression pedals hooked up to it (volume, wah, and whammy). For those interested in details, they were Mission pedals, 2 SP-1s and an EP-1. Dave had a Ground Control and one of the Mission pedals.
All of this was run into a rather complicated looking series of racks. They had one rack with a mixer, their in-ears transmitters, and some other stuff. Devin had his rack with the Axe-FX, his Roland processor, wireless, tuner, and some other stuff I couldn't see clearly. Dave's was basically Axe-FX and tuner IIRC. Also, both had poweramps in their racks, presumably for nights where they needed to use cabs. They also had a small rack with two laptops connected to it. I don't know what all the gear did, but I assume one laptop was for their backing/click tracks, and I'm led to believe the other was controlling their mix. From what the sound guy told me, everything was automated from the stage and the FOH mixer wasn't doing that much, really (tweaks to fit the room, presumably).
What this all translates into is: stage volume was ridiculously, unbelievably low. I went around the side of the stage during one song to check it out, and it was almost hilarious how quiet it was. Just drums and un-amplified vocals. Not a single speaker on stage.
Sound out front was very clear, and sounded great. If you got too close, it sounded a little strange because you'd start to reach the point where you'd normally hear the amps on stage, and instead just hear drums. This also meant that Devin could talk/yell to people in the front row without the mic, and be heard, clearly, over the music, with my earplugs in. Very cool. This also allowed for some incredible dynamics in the music. There were some very soft and subtle parts being played (i.e. not from the backing track) throughout the night. It was very cool to see, and it meant the show went from pin drop quiet to mindcrushingly loud. Very, very cool.
Now the show: Devin Townsend may be one of the greatest performers I've ever seen. He was very obviously in a great mood, and loving life up there on stage. He was hilarious as usual, and his stage presence was everything we've come to know and love from him. He made a point of pointing out and communicating with individual fans in the crowd, even commenting that he recognized one person from Twitter
During the last song of the main set (Bad Devil), he ran off the stage and way around to the back of the room (where the people sitting at tables and drinking are) during the intro, encouraging people to dance. During the instrumental break in the middle, he yelled "I'm going over by the merch table to dance, everyone who wants to dance, come follow me!" And sure enough, myself and a large-ish group of others ran over to dance it up with him. It was ridiculous, goofy, and hilariously fun. He's laughing and dancing along with a group of sweaty metalheads while still playing, flawlessly I might add
When he came out for the encore (which, before leaving the stage, he assured us there would be) someone yelled "Play 'Love'!" and he took that moment to give a bit of a speech about SYL and his career in general. To sum up: SYL was a great band, and the reason they were his favourite metal band was that it came from the heart. Now, what comes from his heart, is what he's doing now. If you ask someone to play something they don't really feel, they're posers, and he doesn't want to know or hang around anyone who listens to poser music Someone then yelled "Sex and Religion!" to which he commented (to the best of my memory) "Two of the most controversial topics possible! Sex is a connection between two people who love each other. Religion is fucked! And that goes for Satanism, Christianity, whatever. I firmly believe that human beings are just plain dumb. I know I don't know anything, and if anyone claims to know anything, they're either smarter than me, or got a memo I didn't get. But then, I'm so indecisive, tomorrow I could be saying Hail Satan! And then the next day, Praise Jesus! Ah fuck it, HAIL ZILTOID!" and then launched into a song
One of the coolest parts of the night was the transition from a very loud and heavy Ziltoid song I don't remember the name of, into an incredibly quiet and mellow Ki jam that literally silenced the room. He finished off with Deep Peace with the full solo section, during which, he got slightly lost in the bit right before the drums kick in, struggled for a bit, and looked genuinely relieved when he managed to come in with the drums properly The downside to playing to a click.
Overall: Incredible show, wildly entertaining, Devin seems to be very happy about life right now, and absolutely the happiest/most positive metal show I've ever seen As for the sound of the Axe-FX, and running direct live in general: I loved it. Will it ever replace big walls of tube amps? Hell no. But for shows like this with lots of production put in, it works incredibly well and allows some things you can't do with "real" amps. I kind of missed having a 4x12 blasting me in the face for about half of the first song, but I got used to it fast. Personally, the idea of relying on the PA entirely still scares the everloving crap out of me
I'm not going to read ANY of that until AFTER my show tomorrow night