Date: 10th December 2019
Devin Townsend and Haken. A deadly and triumphant combination that could challenge for gig/tour of the year. Moments of outstanding musicality, devastating delivery and plenty of quirkiness sweep through Manchester’s Albert Hall.
Queuing around the block in not quite Arctic, but most unpleasant conditions – some way back had come especially for Haken and were a bit bothered about being in time to catch their set – a full house of brave souls were rewarded with a bumper bill of progressive music, metallic at the core but with plenty of branches to follow.
Haken may have had to trim their usual set to a compact 45 minutes, but it was a case of quality over quantity. No room for any of their extended pieces, their set opened with the punch of Puzzle Box and continued by ticking several boxes in a series of quick succession, short, sharp shocks. It was particularly the case with the dextrously impressive instrumental Nil By Mouth and then the eccentricities of Cockroach King.
Their lighter side was showcased by Earthrise from the Affinity album. Along with their most recent effort, the striking Vector record, it provided the bulk of the set. Even by-passing the ambition of their first couple of albums, they now have enough in their locker to play extended or shorter sets that confirm the fact that Haken are now beyond being a genuinely exciting prospect. Haken are major league.
And so to the reason most of us (remember those people in the queue?) were here. We were treated to the many faces of Devin in much the same way that the magnificent Empath has covered more musical styles and bases than you could think possible.
From the deadly and deathly serious stuff to the playful in the show opening sequence with the nine band members strolling on one by one and taking a bow before placing their soft toys or stage props into place. He’s a cool character is Devin, even taking a couple of soft toys from the audience to stuff into the neck of his shirt – check our souvenir photos… The loose fun was all emphasised by the decadence of the foliage strewn around the stage and his declarations that it was time to get on vacation for a couple of hours, away from what the outside world held for us.
Joining Devin were a band that included Haken’s Diego Tejeida doing an extra shift, three backing singers and with Mike Keneally and Che Aimee Duval (later, swapping her shirt and jeans combo for something considerably more glamourous) standing at his right (and left) hand. And once the music started in earnest, Borderlands, Evermore, and War were a triumphant triumvirate that induced a celebratory atmosphere that saw the first outburst of “De-vin, De-vin” football chants.
Having broken the ice, Hawaiian shirts were discarded in time for something more experimental where the flick of a switch and the change of vocal register saw some of his Prince styled funky chops turning to something much more serious in the Coast, Gato and Heaven Send sequence. More of the menacing and moody had the band hitting a cool groove with Heaven Send before heading to the bizarre passage of the show that’s seen him donning a tutu, quite apt actually while performing Why.
After taking the epic Spirits Will Collide in a different direction with the acoustic guitar and bringing the ladies forward to take the spotlight, how could you end but by encoring and sending everyone home with the satisfaction that came in the chain reaction of Disco Inferno. Devin Townsend – the man for all seasons and the perfect antidote to help keep a smile on our faces and a skip in our step. For one evening at least, in our little corner of Manchester, all was right with the world.