Precious & Grace: Devin Townsend Charms Manchester
On a night when Britain's showcase prog act TesseracT sounded hollow, soulless and over-digitalised, 44 year old Canadian Devin Townsend led his band through a 90 minute set of tangible charisma and prowess.
Much acclaim has been given to TesseracT over the years - despite a merry-go-round of soap opera like singer changes - but once more their live presence was tame and ineffective. Be the dynamics delicate or aggressive their sound, which utilises the most up-to-date modulating and tone imprinting software, lacked the chest-rattling bottom end of the real thing. Everything nestled at the same characterless volume; when the opening moments of Nocturne chimed out, no impact was felt, still it lulled. The band too, except for their swaying frontman, were motionless throughout. In all, it was like being on a train and someone has their headphones so loud everyone else can hear and, as such, is treated to a trebly, pale immitation of what it should be.
However, where TesseracT failed, Devin Townsend thrived. A veteran of live performance, who makes a great point of portraying an accentuated, adrenalised version of himself on stage, performed with a magnetic humility. Through early moments like Ocean Machine's uplifting Night to the catastrophically mega Higher, his deep appreciation for his fan's support - thanking them many times across the evening - was clear to see, all the while appearing almost apologetic for the talent that oozed out of him and his cohorts. It resulted in an honesty and child-like passion that you could almost touch.
His sense of humour and puppeteering command of his audience, which he almost seems to do on a whim, reigned supreme all night. Planet Of The Apes was long, guttural and spellbinding, Kingdom magnificently over-the-top. Failure meanwhile sounded like an angry angel.
In an age where rock stars are dropping like flies, here is a man that encapsulates the raw talent, gravitas and song writing mastery of the very best, but ices it, quite naturally, with a heart-warming air.
Words: Phil Weller