Devin Townsend Project presents The Retinal Circus - The Roundhouse, Camden
Now that was a show! It takes a mind as unhinged as Devin Townsend to pull together a three hour set spanning the majority of his output, tie it into a story (of sorts) and persuade the right people to stage it as a one-off pseudo musical. Complete with actors, performers and numerous guest appearances to create this fantastical extravaganza, the likes of which the metal world has never seen before, The Retinal Circus is nothing short of complete and utter madness.
After what seems an eternity waiting for the show to begin, the disembodied head of Steve Vai flickers into life to guide us through this mystical journey, the maze that is the dreams of our protagonist Harold. An overly long introduction finally gives way to some actual music, the choir firing up as the band launch into 'True North'. The choir then promptly morph into various creatures – an early indication of the psychedelic nature of the evening – to the hugely enjoyable, and enjoyed, 'Lucky Animals'.
The first half of the show largely draws on the recent heavy Devin Townsend Project material along with a good dose of the ever-popular Ziltoid, and with Anneke van Giersbergen putting in another star turn at the top of the stage, it is a wondrous mix of the melodious and the brash. The story continues to weave its confusing path throughout, but in truth I'm not certain how much people are truly bothered by it given the apparent lack of interest as Vai waffles on, usually out of sync.
The second half opens with Devin doing a solo acoustic version of the classic 'Hyperdrive', slowing building the crowd back up as 'Ih-Ah!' swells into life. But the show-stopping moment comes when, at long last, the murky past of Strapping Young Lad is plundered, much to the obvious ecstasy of all here tonight; 'Detox', and later 'Love?', blow the fucking roof of The Roundhouse with their sheer brutality, aided in part by the addition of former partner-in-crime Jed Simon lending his axe to the destruction.
All the while, pole dancers, acrobats and entertainers strut their stuff around the musicians; less a distraction, they merely add to the sense of occasion without often detracting from the real reason most are here – the music. It's fun, it's completely overblown, yet is somehow in keeping with the ridiculousness of it all.
The grand finale of 'Grace' is a bombastic, triumphant call to arms, showing Devin at his pompous best with the heavy guitars, continual audience sing-along and the majestic interweaving of his and Anneke's vocals – a lesson in there for all those bands that try too hard with the dual vocal fad. An encore of the country-laced 'Little Pig' is a cheesy and relaxed end to a highly entertaining and unique night of the grandest slice of heavy metal many of us have ever seen. Bloomin' marvellous!
Effervescent! / True North / Lucky Animals / Planet of the Apes / Truth / War / Planet Smasher / Babysong / Vampolka / Vampira / Addicted! / Color Your World / The Greys // Hyperdrive / Ih-Ah! / Where We Belong / Detox / Bend It Like Bender! / Life / Kingdom / Juular / Love? / Wild Colonial Boy / Grace // Little Pig