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Devin Townsend projects himself

Kris Kotlarik

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In the October 27 issue of The Spectator, I wrote a review on the “Carnival is Forever” show at the House of Rock which featured three international death metal bands.

In that review, I called that show “the most insane concert I’ve ever been to.” Well, the Devin Townsend Project’s show at the House of Rock on Tuesday night was even more insane than that.

However, unlike the moshing mayhem that ensued at “Carnival is Forever,” this particular form of insanity came entirely from Devin Townsend, the group’s front man and guitarist.

After all, only a madman would choose songs like “Gimme More” by Britney Spears, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, and “Single Ladies” by Beyonce to play on his puppet character’s mock radio station at a “metal” concert before the show starts, right?

Townsend said he picked up on some confusion from the audience, which is an environment he said he excels in.

“I find it easier to perform when people are confused because it gives me fuel,” Townsend said. “I think we all had a pretty good time.”

While whipsawing through songs that spanned most of his solo career dating back to 1997, Townsend interacted with the crowd in such a way that Jonathan Goin, an Eau Claire resident, called this show the most personal concert he has ever been to.

“He was right in your face,” Goin said. “You could say something to him, and he would talk back to you while he was playing. It was phenomenal; I can’t even explain it. He’d be talking to you and playing an amazing riff at the same time.”

Townsend, from Vancouver, frequently made jokes about Eau Claire and other random topics, stuck his face in the crowd at virtually every opportunity, and at one point hopped off the stage and continued playing his guitar as he walked into the crowd.

While Townsend is commonly referred to as a metal artist, his albums have dabbled into the realms of progressive and ambient music. The Devin Townsend Project, his most recent solo project, has four albums, all written by Townsend, with wildly contrasting styles and personnel ranging from relatively obscure Canadian musicians to the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

His ability to change styles on a dime without missing a beat were on full display throughout the night, which impressed recent Devin Townsend fan and New Brighton, MN resident Andrea Cadalbert.

In particular, Cadalbert was thrilled by Townsend’s performance of “Life,” a song off of his 1997 album, “Ocean Machine.” She said “Life” was the first Devin Townsend song she had listened to after being introduced to him by a friend this past summer.

“This song, I need to learn on guitar,” Cadalbert said. “I would like to learn a lot of his songs, but I don’t think I can move my fingers that intensely.”

After playing two songs from his latest album, “Deconstruction,” Townsend mocked the longtime ritual of leaving the stage and having the crowd cheer for them to come back for an encore by having the entire crowd turn around and pretending the band was offstage.

After ending the charade, the band finished off the set with the last two songs off of his 2007 tongue-in-cheek rock opera album, “Ziltoid the Omniscient,” before ending the show with the hauntingly beautiful “Deep Peace.”

When the show ended, Townsend jumped right back into the audience to sign miscellaneous items and pose for pictures with his fans. Cadalbert praised Townsend for taking the time to interact with his fans.

“I like how he gets in there with everybody, and it’s really just joyous to watch him,” Cadalbert said. “He’s got such a joyous face expression, and he’s crazy and fun.”

When asked about whether he would like to return to Eau Claire, Townsend, who had never performed in Eau Claire before, fittingly cracked another joke.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s the shallow end of the gene pool,” Townsend said with a wide grin on his face. “You guys seem like you’re pretty clever here.”

Continuing Eau Claire’s booming metal scene, crossover thrash metal pioneers D.R.I. take the stage at the House of Rock with local acts Desolatevoid and Defenestrator. Tickets for that show cost $15 and is 21+ entry or all ages with a parent.

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The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.
Devin Townsend projects himself