UEA, Norwich April 5, 2023
by Niki Jones
If you’re under the impression that all metal fans are the same, you’re wrong.
Just compare last week’s Lamb Of God crowd with tonight’s. LoG’s devotees were a rowdy, beer-swilling, merch-gobbling bunch. The crowd was loud, the moshpit was intense and the queue at the bar was impenetrable.
Tonight, people politely collect a beverage from the bar before finding a vantage point where they stand politely, rarely moving other than to take a trip to the bathroom. The bar is almost entirely empty all night and there’s always a nice place to stand.
Perhaps Devin Townsend attracts the thinking person’s metal fan. Perhaps I should stop my cod-sociological musings and get on with it.
Norway’s Fixation kick off tonight’s European heavy line-up. They blend chugging metalcore-tinged riffs with radio ready vocals, like Savage Garden jamming Architects songs. It’s not nearly as weird as that description makes it sound.
Frontman Jonas W Hansen is a born pop star, with his boyish good looks and exuberant stage presence. He plays to the crowd as if they’re the headline act, and he soon gets the place warmed up.
Klone may hail from France but they bring to mind such trans-Atlantic legends as Tool, Porcupine Tree and even Jane’s Addiction on the beautiful Keystone. Vocalist David Ledoux may bear more than a passing resemblance to Slayer’s Tom Araya but that’s where the similarity ends.
His soaring, soulful baritone has more in common with Maynard James Keenan, Steven Wilson and even Mike Patton on the more aggressive passages.
However, unlike their proggier influences, Klone’s songs are surprisingly compact, getting in and out before most of their contemporaries would have got even to the first verse.
They slam into an absolutely crushing cover of Bjork’s Army Of Me before soaring closer Yonder ensures they’ve left more than a small mark on tonight’s crowd.
Devin Townsend has never been a man to rest on his laurels.
His immense body of work is an ever-shifting and mutating animal, ranging from the insanely heavy to the transcendentally beautiful.
Even if you’ve not heard the new album Lightwork, tonight’s opener and almost-title track Lightworker clearly tells us that he’s in a bombastic prog-sorta mood.
Its halftime “lighters in the air” stomp plays out like Meshuggah covering Queen – a vibe which continues as they slam into Kingdom from 2000’s Physicist.
Ably backed by his stellar band of Mike Keneally, James Leach and Darby Todd, they mine many of the most epic moments from Devin’s back catalogue, including an triumphant outing of fan favourite Deadhead from The Devin Townsend Band’s Accelerated Evolution album.
Townsend is still far from the serious man his music suggests. His face contorts like he’s either having the greatest day of his life or he’s just really badly stubbed his toe, and his between-song banter is still as hilariously irreverent as ever.
As if he senses that all of this serious sounding music has been going on for too long, he closes the main set with a one-two Infinity hit of Truth and the ludicrously upbeat Bad Devil, during which he abandons the original lyrics and instead waxes on how tired they all are at the end of the tour and how he needs to go home and mow his lawn.
He returns to the stage for new album stunner Call Of The Void, and then quietly calls it a night. Only kidding… He only bloody slams into Love? by Strapping Young Lad and the crowd goes (sorta) wild.
Whether he’s singing his heart out or screaming up his guts, there’s really no one else like Devin Townsend.
Sleep well, dear boy. You’ve earned it.