Devin Townsend - The Retinal Circus DVD/CD Review

Devin Townsend - The Retinal Circus
Devin Townsend - The Retinal Circus. Inside Out Music

Devin Townsend’s storied career, spanning two decades, is condensed into one live show, The Retinal Circus. Recorded in late October 2012 in London, England, The Retinal Circus is more of an immersive experience, with a story line, guest performers, and special effects.

Obviously, the visual aspects of the show are lost in the audio version, though the narration from guitarist Steve Vai and quirky stage banter from Townsend survives the translation.

The DVD is the preferred method of experiencing The Retinal Circus, though the CD version has its own value.

The show was originally streamed live, and the audio quality was criticized. However, that has been remedied on this album, as the tracks have been beefed up with a hefty production. Some may be disappointed that the live songs were manipulated in the studio, but bands have been doing that since the early ‘70s. Does that make it right? Well, that’s a debate for another day, but The Retinal Circus comes out fine. A notable exception is some vocal drop-off in “Bend It Like Bender!”

Much of Townsend’s solo catalog has been represented in this show, though absent is anything from Terria and a few of the Devin Townsend Project albums (Ki, Ghost). The biggest surprise is the inclusion of two Strapping Young Lad songs, “Detox” and “Love?”, which feature ex-SYL guitarist Jed Simon. The crowd goes crazy for those tracks, and with good reason.

Townsend has been hesitant to play anything from that band since he began to tour again, and this show may be the last time he brings that material out.

Over the past few years, Townsend and vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen have formed a musical partnership that has reaped fantastic work from both musicians.

Giersbergen has a presence throughout The Retinal Circus, and that includes the songs she didn’t work on for the Devin Townsend Project. She accentuates the largely-instrumental “Truth,” takes the lead for a bit on the brutal “War,” and puts an emotional touch on “Babysong.”

Throughout the show, which goes over two hours, Townsend never loses his sense of humor. A few gems include his proclamation, “The s--tiest guitar solo ever,” in describing the lead guitar during “Life,” and calling a stretch of songs, “The ‘80s part of our set.” Sometimes, his comments are to what is going on around him, like on “Planet of the Apes,” which is tough to figure out with just audio to back it up. His vocals, however, are top-notch and it’s a joy to hear him go all-in with the high notes on “Kingdom.”

It’s almost impossible to please every fan when you have released at least a dozen full-length albums between all your projects, but Devin Townsend picks  25 solid tunes to show off. The Retinal Circus is full of the energy and smart-ass antics Townsend has been giving to his live gigs since he began doing them again. Having the show on a CD is great for long road trips, but the full experience comes from the DVD version, where the imagery can back up Townsend’s flamboyant vision.

H3>Devin Townsend - The Retinal Circus Track Listing:

Disc 1

01. Intro (05:45)
02. Effervescent!/True North (04:53)
03. Lucky Animals (03:57)
04. Planet of the Apes (12:16)
05. Truth (04:08)
06. War (05:50)
07. Soul Driven (01:15)
08. Planet Smasher (08:07)
09. Baby Song (05:30)
10. Vampolka (01:36)
11. Vampira (04:24)
12. Addicted! (06:13)
13. Colour Your World (09:50)
14. The Greys (05:16)
15. Hyperdrive (05:23)
16. Ih-Ah! (04:36)
17. Where We Belong (07:25)
18. Detox (06:24)
19. Bend it Like Bender! (03:46)
20. Life (04:49)
21. Kingdom (07:10)
22. Juular (05:01)
23. Love? (05:58)
24. Colonial Boy (03:33)
25. Grace (10:22)
26. Little Pig (08:45)
27. Credits (03:46)
28. Behind The Masks (35:17)

Disc 2

01. Intro (05:45)
02. Effervescent!/True North (04:53)
03. Lucky Animals (03:57)
04. Planet of the Apes (12:16)
05. Truth (04:08)
06.

War (05:50)
07. Soul Driven (01:15)
08. Planet Smasher (08:07)
09. Baby Song (05:30)
10. Vampolka (01:36)
11. Vampira (04:24)
12. Addicted! (06:13)
13. Colour Your World (09:50)
14. The Greys (05:16)

Disc 3

01. Intro (04:11)
02. Hyperdrive (05:23)
03. Ih-Ah! (04:36)
04. Where We Belong (07:25)
05. Detox (06:24)
06. Bend it Like Bender! (03:46)
07. Life (04:49)
08. Kingdom (07:10)
09. Juular (05:01)
10. Love? (05:58)
11. Colonial Boy (03:33)
12. Grace (10:22)
13. Little Pig (08:45)
14. Credits (03:46)
15. Behind The Masks (35:17)

Disc 4

01. Effervescent!/True North (06:23)
02. Lucky Animals (03:33)
03. Planet of the Apes (11:02)
04. Truth (03:59)
05. War (06:09)
06. Soul Driven (01:08)
07. Planet Smasher (06:19)
08. Baby Song (05:30)
09. Vampolka (01:36)
10. Vampira (03:42)
11. Addicted! (05:32)
12. Colour Your World (09:48)
13. The Greys (04:54)

Disc 5

01. Hyperdrive (04:44)
02. Ih-Ah! (03:58)
03. Where We Belong (04:18)
04. Detox (06:03)
05. Bend it Like Bender! (03:36)
06. Life (04:52)
07. Kingdom (05:09)
08. Juular (03:59)
09. Love? (05:23)
10. Colonial Boy (02:58)
11. Grace (06:52)
12. Little Pig (07:30)

(released October 29, 2013 on InsideOut Music)