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Live Review + Photos: The Devin Townsend Project, Sydney 2015

The Devin Townsend Project / Periphery
UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney 24/10/2015
Review: Kieran Freese | Photos: Peter Zaluzny

One stage. Two bands. Three hours of prog metal. It was somewhat strange to see Periphery opening up a show to a not-yet-warmed-up crowd, but it soon became clear that a decent portion of the 2000-strong crowd were there mainly to see the purveyors of Perf-Riffery do their thing. Opening with the sludgily atmospheric “Psychosphere”, the band largely chose to showcase tracks from their recent double concept-album Juggernaut: Alpha & Omega over older material, while still throwing in some token fan favourites for good measure. Though Spencer Sotelo’s inability to jump up and down in time with the music made for an interesting start to “Icarus Lives!”, his vocal performance was impeccable – the choruses of “22 Faces” and “Make Total Destroy” absolutely soared, while his crushingly dark verses in “The Bad Thing” growled with aggression, causing a few enthusiastic front-rowers to start a pit despite the decidedly non-moshy atmosphere of the show. A strong mix that improved significantly in the second half of the set benefited the band’s triple-guitar team, allowing the intricacies of Messrs Holcomb, Mansoor and Bowen’s individual layers to shine through.

The drawn-out changeover between acts was helped by an extended video message from none other than Ziltoid, Devin Townsend’s own puppet-alien creation, which set the mood for Devin’s unique brand of nerdy Canadian humour before the headliners took the stage to a full house. Declaring to the crowd that he had switched himself into show-mode and was now a “cool rock’n’roll guy”, Hevy Devy kicked the band into “Rejoice” from last year’s Z2 album. Drawing from his extensive musical output, the prolific Devin scattered a number of tracks from his solo releases and The Devin Townsend Band in between the Project’s own material and treating aficionados to a good handful of tracks never before played in Sydney. While Townsend was of course the star of his own show, mention must be made of his backing band, particularly long-time drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen holding things down up the back. But it was Townsend’s voice that made the biggest impression of all – the vibrato-laden, operatic verses of set-closer “Kingdom” were nothing short of jaw-dropping to hear in person, and by the end of the show, even those less familiar with Townsend’s immense catalogue walked aware that they had just witnessed a true master of his craft at work.

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