In the gilded grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall, on the night that Game Of Thrones returns to our screens, a regal chair is visible on a high, empty stage. This seat will not be taken up by Tommen Baratheon or Daenerys Targaryen, but by gothic war princess Queen Blatteria. She’s the mother of the Poozers – pink, squishy-looking creatures that Devin Townsend will later describe as “farting ballbags”…
This is the stripped-back sight that greets the 5,000 fans gathered in this prestigious setting for Hevy Devy’s latest London adventure. After playing four consecutive gigs for his concept album quartet in 2011, and putting on the musical-cum-performance-art madness of 2012’s The Retinal Circus, he’s about to bring Ziltoid sequel Z2: Dark Matters screaming to life./o:p
As eight big screens flicker to life, an almighty roar starts up. We see teaser images of Ziltoid in space, before the show proper begins, and he flashes up inside his ship to begin Dark Matters’ complicated story. All you need to know is that the alien overlord plans to invade Earth (kidnapping a Poozer along the way), and is fascinated by human excretion – “The mysteries of the human turd!”, “Log jams for all!”/o:p
It’s all very silly, but as Devin and friends hit the stage for the title track, you’re reminded how great the music is too, with the madcap musican’s bowel-wrenching vocals ringing out.
The next hour plays out like a drugged-out recollection of The War Of The Worlds, and contains a universe of joyful surprises. Disembodied eyes and mouth – with turd- coloured lipstick – narrate the plot. A duo of Poozers dance. Choristers either side of the stage match their movements to the music, breaking into a rhythmic stomp for the menacing March Of The Poozers. A lifesize Ziltoid and the Queen – played by Stolen Babies’ Dominique Lenore Persi, as on record – fight and throw eggs containing Ziltoid hand puppets into the crowd, before two men fire t-shirt guns.
The terrifying Planet Smasher turns out to be a tiny black-and-white pet that looks like a cousin of Futurama’s Nibbler. Onscreen, Captain Spectacular (aka Chris Jericho) meets his death. All the while, the audience is enraptured, waving arms, singing and starting pits.
There’s so much going on that you barely notice Devin’s actual band, who blend into the background in matching black polo shirts with red logo, until the Strapping Young Lad-alike Ziltoid Goes Home flattens ears throughout the venue, gimmick- and dialogue-free. The set ends as Dark Matter does, with Ziltoid and his Queen nemesis stuck on the moon…
While the first act is all high entertainment and onstage chaos, the ‘by request’ half is a chance for Devin’s music to take centre stage, and everyone visibly relaxes. With co-ordinating tops gone, guitarist Dave Young wears a Shining t-shirt and bassist Brian Waddell sports an Iron Maiden one, showing they’re just like us – a bunch of metalheads, albeit very talented ones.
And so the glorious classics begin: Terria’s Earth Day, Accelerated Evolution’s Deadhead, and a mesmerising rendition of Ocean Machine’s The Death Of Music. Ziltoid is great fun, but it feels like we’re now on Devin’s home planet./o:p
His talents as a frontman also shine through. Always humble, never one to play the grandstanding rockstar, tonight he takes the piss out of macho metal culture and frontmen who “fervently” request pits. “I want you guys to fuck that other guy in the cock!” he laughs. Instead, he asks everyone to wave around their “jazz hands” during the chorus of Lucky Animals. It is ridiculous, yet everyone complies. “They look like little butterflies of despair!” he smiles with glee. People are out of their seat in inhibition-free raptures. They are bowing down. They are revelling in a night of freedom of expression – and freedom to be a nerd.
And that’s the thing about Devin. He creates a community, his own little world. “There’s no way I can express what this night means to all of us,” he says from the heart, launching into thank yous and getting fans and crew up for final song Universal Flame, chosen by his son who stands onstage. In a final nod to Ziltoid, the words flash up onscreen, with a bouncing Poozer to guide the way, so the whole room can participate in the joyous end to his final show for a year.
While tonight’s not the first time a metal band has graced the Royal Albert Hall’s stage (see: Bullet For My Valentine, Opeth), it’s unlikely these hallowed surroundings have heard so many scatological references, or have witnessed so much abandonment.
There may be two sides to Devin’s personality, but one thing’s clearer than the stars around Ziltoidia 9: he’s the person who deserves to sit on that throne./o:p
FINAL VERDICT: 9⁄10