You when you thought the magnificent Empath album couldn’t be any more magnificent, Devin Townsend gives us a record of the live extravaganza.
Release Date: 23rd October 2020
Label: Inside Out Music
Format: CD / DVD / BluRay / vinyl / Deluxe artbook package
We saw the show in Manchester (review here) and have shamelessly bleated on about it ever since. And on;t forget the acoustic evenings that immediately followed Empath in the first cycle of touring.
Our show is the London one from 2019 where the DT Project gave way to an impressive backline of guitarists Mike Kenneally (ex-Frank Zappa) and Markus Reuter (Stick Men, The Crimson Project), drummer Morgan Ågren (Kaipa, Mats & Morgan, Frank Zappa), bassist Nathan Navarro, Haken keyboard player Diego Tejeida, and guitarist/vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval, as well as vocalists Samantha & Anne Preis and Arabella Packford.
A crack team that proved up to the task of Devin’s ambition to get up there and trying to keep it from spinning off into outer space – 0r maybe just let it spin-off into outer space for the sheer hell of it. The ‘by the seat of our pant’ philosophy. and one where Devin could have his fun, lead from the front and his troops would follow.
The enjoyment is apparent if not from listening to the audio, certainly from watching the show unfold. That sense of fun and freedom was obvious to anyone who attended the shows. Visually, it was an assault on the senses in the best possible way more often than not in moreintimate venues. A digital screen projected vivid images throughout the show. A giant gleaming mirrorball hung from the ceiling and there were multiple costume changes and a tiki bar onstage.
The zany (there’s a grand and massively underused word) intro with the Hawaiin shirts and tropical backdrop as we head onto the whackiest vacation ever accompanied (eventually) by the massive Borderlands riff. Hard not to get caught up in the celebration as Devy gurns and roars operatically while throwing in lines that could come together as stand up.
The mid set tangent comes with some atmospheric noodling (and costume changes…) where the band rip out some cool jazzy blues style licks on Heaven’s End before a monstrously mighty Deadhead and get seriously teased on Why? It’s the point of the show where you can start to appreciate that Devy is going with the flow wherever that may lead and the band are doing their job of playing along like a well oiled machine.
Like the announcements over the tannoy in Marineville in Gerry Anderson’s Stingray series, anything could happen in the next half hour. George Michael’s Careless Whisper? You got it. And then taking one of the huge tracks from Empath, Spirits Will Collide, into a stripped back hymn (can I take credit for suggesting that to the man himself in an interview for Louder Than War in Leeds on his acoustic tour?), it’s beauteous.
How do you follow that curveball? Throw another. And another. No surprise that we get into the groove of Disco Inferno. Burn baby burn and then we’re crushed by the machine gun power of Kingdom and huge gratitude from a lovely lovely man.
Devin’s plan for the Empath touring cycle was to divide it up into three ‘Volumes’, and this was Volume 1. We’re only at the beginning so any bets against this being the end of Empath. Oh, no siree. It just remains to be seen how he can top this, but one thing’s for sure – he will.
Listen to War here (or at least listen to the first few seconds…