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The Devin Townsend Project - O2 Academy, Bristol - March 29 2015 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 Written by Alec Chillingworth

We need to talk about Devin. The guy's got the flu and looks like he's been dragged from one of those incubators in The Matrix. Still, he's putting on a show that rivals, well, just about anyone you might care to mention.

But that’s not to dismiss his valiant support acts. Shining receive a rapturous amount of praise, particularly for an opening band, after chugging through their ‘blackjazz’ hits – 'One One One' is basically industrial metal plus added sax – with supreme confidence.

Jørgen Munkeby's static-laden screams are sometimes lost in the mix but it doesn't matter. The man is an absolute star, swapping from guitar to saxophone like it ain't no thang. Håkon Sagen plays guitar like an axe-murderer delivering the final blow and the finale of I Won't Forget ensures booties are shaken and the curious are converted.

Periphery are a different bag. Their slick, perilously precise prog metal has been bubbling under the surface for some time now, and this year's superb 'Juggernaut' twin release established them as genuine players.

Frontman Spencer Sotelo leads the charge tonight, pink hair bobbing as aggressively as pink hair can bob, as he growls through The Bad Thing and unleashes piercing, inconceivably high clean melodies in equal measure. Drummer Matt Helpem plays with fluidity and creative flair to rival Mike Portnoy and more ferocity than Dave Lombardo. And, all that while pulling a face reminiscent of an octopus having a 50 minute orgasm.

Periphery are virtuosos – guitarist Misha Mansoor is the Vai, Malmsteen or Jesus Christ of the 21st century – and are going to blow the fuck up at any minute. They straddle the line between proggy nerdishness and anthemic festival tunes and the only tiny niggle with their performance is that they are a tad static. Obviously this stuff is bloody complicated to play, but the sheer power of the music demands more. It’s a bit like finding the cure for cancer and saying: “So... pub?”

And now back to Devin. Clogged up with snot but undeterred – aggressive nipple rubbing and rude hand gestures feature heavily  – he reminds a sold out crowd why they fell in love with him to begin with.

Rarities like Namaste and the pop-driven Christeen are aired ahead of new stuff, with only four fresh songs getting a seeing to tonight. March Of The Poozers remains as ridiculously pompous as it is on record, and evil bum aliens and sock puppets flash on screens while Brian Waddell and Dave Young mischievously poke their instruments toward the crowd. It's like watching five blokes win the lottery, marry Emma Stone and kill their boss in the space of an evening. This is what happiness looks like.

Townsend’s stage banter is top notch and even his flu-ravaged voice sounds godly. He doesn't quite hit the operatic splendour we hope for at the tail-end of Storm, but the look on his face as he dawdles through Lucky Animals with Munkeby on sax, clad in a rubber monkey mask, voids any vocal shortcomings.

The mass singalong to Addicted!'s opening melody feels like a budget Iron Maiden chant – in a really good way – and Kingdom is perfect. They rock so hard, in fact, that the screens at the back of the stage stop working. Brains spill from craniums. Lives are changed. Just another day at the office for The Devin Townsend Project.

Devin Townsend Project Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue March 31 2015 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sat April 11 2015 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Mon April 13 2015 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall

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