GIG REVIEW: Devin Townsend and Caligula’s Horse – Sydney November 11th 2023

The Metro Theatre - Sydney, NSW

Devin Townsend
Photo Credit: Paul Harries

It’s been a long time since I visited the Metro Theatre in the heart of Sydney. A whole bunch has changed, but thankfully some things don’t. After decades of coming to our shores with various incarnations, Devin Townsend is still able to get people excited and hungry for more as many punters lined up early at the sold out Metro to get a good spot to watch the legend in action.

Of course, another attraction for the early attendance was to catch the Australian heroes Caligula’s Horse. The room filled up quickly for Caligula’s Horse, with merch and bar queues stretching as far as the walls would allow. Now, I’ve not seen Caligula’s for a very long time so you’ll have to forgive my ignorance of song titles. They get a rapturous welcome from the Sydney crowd as they take the stage.. They sounded great, polished and professional. With a very charming and charismatic Jim Grey, preaching the message of love and acceptance he is a master of holding the crowd in the palm of his hand. Guitarist Sam Vallen shredding effortlessly when unleashing the recently released single Golem from the upcoming release Charcoal Grace, Caligula’s really tore up the stage tonight. A great way to start to the show!

The mighty Devin hits the stage with a huge roar from the crowd and instantly begins being his funny and self-deprecating self. Armed with a new band, and still sounding amazing, his vocal ability seems invincible even through lack of sleep and the punishment of travel and touring. Launching into Lightwork and immediately the sing along began. His back catalogue is immense, the fact that he can throw out the bullet-proof Kingdom second track in delights the sold out crowd. The audience was truly packed in like sheep desperate to not miss a second of this already insane show. Drawing again from the recent release Lightwork, the deep cut Dimensions were a real cracker.

Hearing Deadhead live is always an amazing experience, the emotion and atmosphere of this track is nothing short of mesmerizing. It’s one of my absolute favourite tracks from Devin, I felt lucky that he included it. The musicianship behind By Your Command is something that needs to be seen to be believed, especially that last half. The fact that Devin and his band can play those intricate patterns that evolves and moves with the song with such precision was a sight to behold, what a great time and song.

Deep Peace is one of his greatest tracks. It made me so happy when he pulled it out tonight, simply astounding. Devin and his new rhythm guitarist/pianist really showed off their prowess before that magical middle section. I apologise for not knowing the rhythm guitarist’s name but the fact that he can play a guitar with one hand and a piano with the other in synchronicity proves his talent. By this time I truly felt spoiled by the set that Devin has chosen, but there was a whole lot more on the way!

Spirits Collide is very special to me, another spectacular example of Devin’s softer side of songwriting. It’s just so moving, especially for those who have lived through loss as the man himself described before the song. The fact that Devin is bringing out Strapping Young Lad songs after many years of inner turmoil about what that material means to him and what he went through during that time in his life is fantastic. I’m so happy that he has found peace with that part of his career and life, also, selfishly the fact that we can hear songs like Almost Again and Aftermath back to back is incredible. The tracks are greeted with a huge reaction from the audience and they obviously sound as crushing as they ever have. The people squeezed into the pit started swarming all over the place.

Once again showing off his extensive range in songwriting prowess following Strapping songs up with the absolutely bombastic and over the top Why was just so much fun. The whole crowd joined in on the fun with another huge sing-along.

Delving all the way back to the Christine EP, Truth is something I have not heard in a quite a long time, what a great track. All of us at the Metro were well and truly spoiled with the setlist tonight. Ending the main set with the excellent, make you want to dance up and down the isles fun time of Bad Devil, another one of my absolute favourites, was a masterstroke. Devin knows what his audience wants and is more than happy to give it to them.

Taking a quick break then coming back alone with his acoustic guitar Devin gifted us with a truly moving rendition of Ih-Ah! once again the crowd sang along and swayed in joy. While I’m sure he doesn’t often take requests from the crowd, earlier in the night he pointed to a member of the audience and said “It’ll have to be acoustic, but I promise to try”. Well, that person’s dream came true as Devin made good on that promise with an impromptu acoustic version of Bastard. It came out of nowhere and all in attendance adored, a brilliant “you had to be there” moment. Another special moment was shared when the crowd and band sang Happy Birthday to James the bassist before Devin tore into set closer Love? Another legendary Strapping Young Lad track, what a way to end the night. An absolutely stellar life- affirming performance by an amazing performer. Thank you so much Devin Townsend for continuing to bring your music to your ever loving audience, cannot wait for next time.

Thanks also to Metal-Roos, Michael and Thomas for giving me the opportunity to witness this, it was like I hand picked the set myself, Devin covered all the bases I could have hoped for and more. Incredible.

Reviewed by Jonathan Hurley