@ Newcastle University, November 15 2011

Four nights of Deconstruction in London must have been quite exhausting for Devin Townsend.

And four smashing albums in four nights is enough to make us quite jealous of our Cockney cousins.  But was potential exhaustion ever going to effect Townsend’s performance in the northern lands?  No. 

Tonight, Devin is stripped from the metal pretension that he eagerly and charismatically takes jovial punts at with comedic wetness.  This is deconstruction – this is the genius unassembled with all on show in the intimacy of Newcastle’s Student Union venue.

INME’s Dave McPherson does a nice little acoustic set to warm anticipation, playing a lovely cover of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine amongst much of his own material.  Loverats follows, showing that McPherson probably has better taste as a prolific solo artist than with the band he’s better renowned.

The childish sibling games with INME are replaced with a quiet charm, and the only disappointment with his performance was the slightly melodramatic fluctuations that he rolls at the end of each vocal phrase.  His voice is consistent – of crystal refinement – but as it meanders around every note, it fails to hit home at times, bringing the age-old cliché of ‘less is more’ to mind.  The Hevy Devy buzz ensued.

Devin doesn’t hit the stage in a camaraderie of nonsense or ‘fuck yeahs‘.  The genius walks casually  on stage, says his pleasantries away from the mic and asks for requests immediately, to which reams of his discography are rattled off by zesty fans.

But before it turns into a complete circus frenzy, Townsend asks ‘shall we start mellow?  I’m feeling mellow’.  And so begins the ambient beaut of Funeral.  Welcome to the world of Dev – population 1.  Take a deep breath, release it, and plunge into this silky melody.

It’s from this point on that the former Strapping Young Lad mastermind sucks us into the cosmic realm of his dreamworks.  Solar Winds gently continues, utilising what Devin refers to earlier as ‘echoey shit’.  But from the outside, looking into his ethereal world – we realise it’s much more profound.

What’s more captivating about the man is his confidence in retrospect to any other musicians we could possibly call his ‘peers’.  This is Devin stripped down – deconstructed if you like – with an acoustic guitar, living solely from the vibes of his undying audience.

The visual display only furthers the experience for the Devin die-hards, with spacey projections that perfect the atmosphere of this intimate occasion.

As some requests suggested, you can take the man away from metal but you can’t take the metal away from the man. Obviously Devin turned any heavy requests on their side with honest admittance or sharp wit.  But that didn’t stop him from picking and choosing a number of ambitious adaptations.

Ih Ah is another beautiful, dreamy track but the performance peaks with Life.  A devout crowd sing back the ‘see you on the other side’ lyrics before the video for Juular pops up and the Canadian musically shifts himself for what is a cracking acoustic rendition of the popular song.

Townsend takes one of his CDs from a fan to determine his next course of action, before deciding to lead with Christeen.  Dev has songs exuding from him in a rich sweat of creativity.  It’s after this point that he asks fans to flood the stage for a ‘kum ba yah’ campfire atmosphere, following into a brief but rousing version of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.

The lovely title track of the amazing Ghost record marked the end of the night with finesse.  This guy’s not simply a legend of metal – Devin’s a legend of music.  Period.

Calum Robson