Devin Townsend + Caligula’s Horse – The Tivoli Brisbane [Live Review]

Review: Nev Pearce
Gallery: Dan Maynard

Canadian musical mastermind Devin Townsend has played an important part in my musical life for over 20 years.

Ever since I heard Strapping Young Lad’s ‘City’ (the greatest metal album of all time in my opinion) I’ve been drawn to his eclectic, emotionally driven and diverse songwriting. Each Devin record has its own personality, and his work has made a massive impact on so many people I know.

The last time we saw Heavy Devy in Australia was for an intimate acoustic tour where he played interpretations of his songs, told jokes, shared stories and promised he would be back with the full band to melt our faces, then the pandemic hit, and everything ground to a halt.
Fast forward to several years later, with a couple of incredible albums added to his massive discography, Devin has returned to Australia to catch up on lost time with his Aussie mates and reconnect with the country that embraced him so early in his career.


Tonight is the last leg of the tour with the show being held at the Tivoli in Brisbane, one of my favourite venues to see live music and the perfect setting for a night of prog metal bangers.
Opening the gig is one of our Country’s finest exports Caligula’s Horse who have not only opened for Dev in the past but also carved their own path on the greater global scale.

After returning abroad the Horse Boys are absolutely on fire, while it isn’t their first rodeo there is something different about them tonight for their hometown gig, all the years of slogging it out on the road have forged them into an absolute force to be reckoned with.
Frontman Jim Grey is one of the best vocalists in the country, his range is astonishing, and the band are incredibly tight as they deliver some of their best cuts such as Slow Violence, Oceanrise, The Tempest, Bloom, Marigold, new track Golem and Dream the Dead to heroes welcome.

These guys know how to put on a show, and we are lucky to have them as the opener for tonight’s show given that they are headliners in their own right.

As Devin hits the stage, he warmly takes the time to get reacquainted with the fans and introduce his band before opening with Lightworker from his latest album Lightwork.
The setlist to follow is a career-spanning journey back and forth through time, honouring both the past and present by diving deep into the discography.

Fan favourite Kingdom starts the journey back in 2000 before we are catapulted forward back to the present day for Dimensions and then thrown back again for Deadhead which is always a highlight of Townsend’s live show.

Next up is where things really get interesting, we are treated to By Your Command from Ziltoid, here we get a glimpse of a side of Devin’s personality that has been somewhat dormant for a little while now, the slightly contorted look on his face and maddening in his eyes comes to the surface, could the mad professor of metal be back? or is it the omniscient coffee-loving green planet destroyer coming back to play!….surely not!

Moving on, Deep Peace brings things back down to a calming nature, with sounds of whales singing reverberating around the room under the soothing sounds of Devin’s effects-heavy headless guitar, it’s here where Dev’s right-hand man Mike Keneally shows off his talents as an incredibly skilled musician ripping into a piano and guitar solo that leaves jaws hitting the floor.

Devin takes a moment to mention that he has been through a lot over the last couple of years like many of us and shares a brief message of hope and the importance of not giving up which leads into the anthem Spirits Will Collide, looking around the venue you can see how much the sentiment means to a lot of people including myself, a very emotional moment and not a dry eye in sight.

This is the part of the gig that took everyone by surprise, Devin has stated on many occasions that he is DONE playing Strapping Young Lad material with Love? being the exception but tonight in almost two decades Townsend has decided to throw in Almost Again onto his set which sees the fans go absolutely bonkers.

‘You gotta make peace with your past, Let’s do another from that era’ proclaims Dev as they tear into another SYL banger Aftermath which sets the pit off and sees him morph completely into his old SYL persona for the duration of the song, He can also manage to nail the vocals with the same range and ferocity which is mind-blowing to witness.

Things shift gears once again with the very theatrical Why?, a brief few second of The Fluke (confessing that they can’t all remember how to play it) and then Truth and Bad Devil to celebrate Infinity’s 25th anniversary.
The set is then neatly wrapped up with Ih-Ah!, an incredible impromptu acoustic version of the SYL song Detox (holy shit!!) and then the big heavy closer Love? which gives the fans one last chance to let loose on the floor.

The biggest takeaway from tonight’s show is that Devin has indeed made peace with his past and embraced it, warts and all and it is beautiful, inspiring, frightening and very human which makes us love the man even more.
Despite this being the last we see of Dev for a couple of years as he has decided to put a pause on touring after this run, you can guarantee that we will be here waiting for his return to celebrate life, music and madness all together once again.