“Welcome to St Churches! Of, er… Godington!” Devin Townsend beams good-naturedly, like a bald, Canadian Brian Blessed. In a checked shirt, specs and comfy-looking trousers, the affable eccentric suits this place of worship oddly well.
His crude alien puppet Ziltoid – the focus for half his Royal Albert Hall spectacular this year – gets one camped-up name-check, but otherwise it’s a stripped-back night of Devin Townsend Project and solo tunes. Plus a distortion-free take on his extreme metal alma mater, Strapping Young Lad. It’s really good.
Armed with acoustic guitars and a lot of echo, it’s new-age Townsend – proper ‘wind chimes ‘n’ whale song’ new-age. Meditative moments like Funeral could be anti-stress soundtracks. Splashes of spacey improvisation intersperse the spine-tingly likes of Hyperdrive, Devin’s colossal vocal range controlled down to the last thoughtfully deployed screech.
Self-aware musings give the sense of a cognitive behavioural therapy session. “I think I’m bipolar!” he quips cheerfully, before pouring raw emotion into a moving Deadhead. From the same guy who created Ziltoid the Omniscient? Maybe he has a point.
With less musical ability or weaker banter, Devin Townsend wouldn’t have half the impact. As it is, he’s a transportive yet deeply relatable figure, and tonight he’s at his very human best.