Bloodstock 2021 / Friday evening – Devin Townsend a completely worthy headliner
14 August 2021. The Wildhearts, Skindred, Devin Townsend.
Things are hotting up here. There’s a lot of talk about headliner Devin Townsend and what his set will comprise. Devin had to put together a completely new band to get around the travel restrictions. Apart from all being from the UK, we know nothing about them, apart from they’ve been playing together for about three days.
Words: Liz Medhurst
Photography: John Inglis
But before then, there’s plenty to be getting on with. Venom Prison knocked us for six with a sonic assault that rattled right round the nervous system. A cup of tea and a fruity flapjack sorted us right out afterwards, though.
The Wildhearts played Bloodstock incredibly for the first time in 2019, and they were one of the bands of the festival. There were two questions to be answered – could they repeat this feat, and would Devin Townsend, who was briefly a member back in the ’90s, make a guest appearance? Yes. And No.
Ginger and co were in fine form, delivering a frantic and full-on set where every song was a crowd-pleaser. Ginger was clearly happy to be here again and introduced drummer Rich, as he wasn’t here last time, saying that the set was better without him, “so give him a warm welcome but not too warm”.
There was a DIY approach to tech, too, as the sun was in his eyes, so he couldn’t see the guitar tuner dial. Instead, he trusted the crowd to shout out if it sounded in tune or not.
Ending with Let Em Go from the recent opus Renaissance Men this hit hard. Its biting commentary showed that the band continue to put out excellent music with socially relevant lyrics.
You know exactly what you are going to get with Skindred, and that is one hell of a good time. From the opening Star Wars theme and Darth Vader himself ushering the band on, it was a powerhouse of ragga infused Metal.
Benji was resplendent in a suit with flames and studs and completely held the crowd exactly where they needed to be. Refusing to settle for even the slightest degree under full participation, affectionately chastising with lines such as “fucking wankers the lot of you” if the desired volume level wasn’t reached.
Only when momentum had built to his satisfaction did the compliments come.
This set revived any mid-festival flagging, reinforced by Benji’s message of togetherness resonating like never before considering the times.
Kill The Power was followed as a tribute to the fallen and for us all to breathe for those we have lost. Then with a stripped-down Saying It Now, the lyrics searing through the soul with talk of regret and telling people you love them while they are still here. Emotional stuff.
Proceedings were dialled right back up afterwards, with plenty more bouncing around and call and response. So, after all this roller coaster, were they going to call it a day and give the Newport helicopter a rest?
Of course not. From the opening strain of Warning, there were people with their tops off already. The exuberance of thousands vigorously whirling their shirts never gets old—what a triumph.
As is traditional, after this, there was a main stage announcement with news of the first batch of bands for BOA 2022 – and its Lamb Of God as one of the headliners, a very popular choice.
You can read about the 2022 lineup at www.metaltalk.net/bloodstock-2022-seventeen-bands-announced-for-next-years-boa.php
VAT remains at 5% on tickets, but only until September, so it is recommended to get your tickets early for next year’s festival.
After a load of quarantine live streams, Devin Townsend was clearly stoked to be up on stage, hardly believing it was real. Neither did the legions of fans, many of whom were on the verge of overwhelm.
The set started a few minutes before the billed time with the screens showing excerpts from the Ziltoid The Omniscient animation (Yes. It is as strange as it sounds) before blasting into what was described as “a Heavy Metal spectacular rife with Canadian awkwardness”. That sounds just the ticket!
In reality, there was no awkwardness, despite Devin apologising in advance for any mistakes, saying he would pass it off as improvisation. The humility was welcome but unnecessary as the whole thing was a riot of colour, sound and graphics, resulting in a heady, otherworldly experience.
The mystery band for this evening was Steve Platt (Collibus) on guitar, James Leach (Sikth) on bass and Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) on drums, all superbly talented.
This was, unsurprisingly, a heavier set, mainly of newer tracks with a mid-set slowing down of pace. It’s futile to pick some highlights, really, but Kingdom, March Of The Poozers, and Spirits Will Collide stood out.
There were plenty of gimmicks throughout, a kitchen sink approach which actually didn’t seem too much in context. There is plenty of audience participation here, too, with cheesy swaying or batting away the giant inflatables described as “farting ball sacks”.
The epic set ended with more pyro and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday for Bloodstock’s 20th year.
Devin was a completely worthy headliner with a memorable set on a memorable day.
You can read all our Bloodstock 2021 coverage, including interviews, here.