Review Summary: Not exactly the ticket we were sold, but one heck of a ride nonetheless.
Devin Townsend, as ever, has been a very busy man. Months of relentless worldwide touring have resulted in the release of no fewer than three live performances in as many years. 2012 saw the release of the ambitious By A Thread
– a collection of the first four DTP albums recorded over four consecutive nights. No more than a year later and we were treated to the spectacular Retinal Circus
, a career-spanning set with one of the most outrageous stage performances ever conceived. Now, two years down the line, Devin has fulfilled his long-desired dream of taking Ziltoid to the stage, performing to a sold-out Royal Albert Hall.
The first half of the show is a complete, uninterrupted performance of Dark Matters
, the sequel to 2007's Ziltoid The Omniscient
, and his escapades through space to pilfer the Earth's supply of coffee. Surprisingly, despite the ridiculous concept, you won't find much of Devin's signature humour throughout the set. Despite being informed by the Narrator that the audience should expect to 'crap their pants', the whole affair seems rather sedate and by-the-numbers. Visually, the show fails to live up to the lofty standards met by the Retinal Circus – the props are few and special effects minimal, and instead the show is driven by pre-recorded scenes on (admittedly elaborate) assortment of screens. These are best put to use during sing-along number 'Dimension Z' and the psychedelic 'Ziltoid Goes Home'. That being said, the giant Poozer costume (a glorified space ball-bag) is hilarious as it dashes across the stage.
Regardless, the visual failings do nothing to take away from the skill of the band – they perform each and every song with the polished precision we've come to expect from the DTP. The live rendition of 'Deathray' captures far more energy than its studio album counterpart, and the band navigates the transitions between heavy and melodic seamlessly in the aforementioned 'Ziltoid Goes Home'. In particular, drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen delivers the performance of his career, delivering his complex parts with a joy that shines through in his playing. Reprising her role as Queen Blataria, Dominique Lenore Persi executes her part with perfection on set highlight 'War Princess'.
When the curtain falls on the first half, both crowd and listener alike are left somewhat sombre. There is nothing inherently wrong with the show thus far, but rather the 'Devy' magic has seemed lacking. The second half of the set was chosen by poll by the fans – does it help revive the show" These concerns are relieved as soon as the opening riffs of 'Namaste' come pounding through the speakers. You can hear the joy in Devin's voice as he relives all the material his fans love and have asked him to perform. Tried and tested classics such as 'Kingdom' and 'Supercrush!' sit aside rarities such as 'Earth Day' and 'Night' – the whole experience is pure bliss. Mike St-Jean makes his presence known on the keyboard during 'Christeen' and 'Earth Day', adding to the layers and giving them a fantastic organic sound. There are no frills, nothing flashy – just brilliant songs performed with passion and skill.
Despite the quality of the latter half, the show's closing is easily its highlight. The tryptic from the end of Ocean Machine of 'Funeral', 'Bastard' and 'The Death of Music' create nearly thirty minutes of emotional listening – you are taken from sadness to anger, and finally through to hope. The whole experience clearly has an impact of Devin's voice as he struggles through 'The Death of Music', with its additional raspiness only adding to its impact.
The people of London have been very fortunate over the past few years with being able to experience Devin at his finest – show after show of bizarre, adventurous, exciting music has meant that whilst the man on the stage is always the same, what he delivers is as diverse as the art he creates. Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall
may not have been exactly the ticket we were sold, but it is certainly one heck of a ride nonetheless.