Though on a substantially smaller conceptual scale than previous live documents The Retinal Circus and Ziltoid Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Devin Townsend’s latest offering still provides two hours of effervescent escapism – or, as he calls it, a “vacation” that includes Hawaiian shirts, jazz hands and tutus as added extras. While the visual portion of this show filmed at London’s Roundhouse provides more laughs, it’s the musical side that’s the most arresting, multi-coloured experience.
Aided by Frank Zappa associates Morgan Ågren and Mike Keneally as well as touch guitarist Markus Reuter, Haken keyboardist Diego Tejeida and Casualties Of Cool singer Ché Aimee Dorval, the Empath Volume 1 line-up brings a dazzling improvisational feel to compositions stretching Devin’s entire discography. And it’s not just in the jams that punctuate the likes of Gato and Heaven’s End, but the subtle flourishes hidden away in the sprawling Genesis and joyous opener Borderlands that add a uniqueness that befits his most recent album’s musical ambition and timely message of hope. Ågren and Reuter in particular are worth the price of admission, with Devin’s exquisite achievement of assembling such a worthy ensemble making Order Of Magnitude such a worthy chapter to revisit.
Having dissolved The Devin Townsend Project in order to fulfil this more challenging, personal endeavour, Canada’s greatest showman is clearly in his element, having as much fun revisiting Deadhead as the absurd Lucky Animals and exuberant silliness of Why?. A cover of Disco Inferno isn’t really the most essential live statement Devin has ever made, but sandwiched between the heartbreakingly beautiful Spirits Will Collide and towering closer Kingdom, it’s a reminder that alongside his astonishing ability, vision and message, he’s been put on this earth to bring smiles and laughter in a way that only the best heroes can.