Devin Townsend needs no introduction here. The king of experimental and prog music has been entertaining us and feeding our brains music to think about for 20-plus years.
What he does with The Retinal Circus, available on CD and DVD, is nothing short of astounding. This loosely tied musical encompasses songs from his entire career, and the Strapping Young Lad songs (“Detox” and “Love?”) sound killer here. Townsend isn’t the star of this show so much as the conductor; his smile and stage persona clearly show how much fun he is having and it reflects in the entire cast/crew.
This show, based on the fantastic voyage of Harold, is narrated by guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. Townsend also employs the help of the fantastic Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals. Her presence here is unmistakable, and she provides a show-stopping performance. Jed Simon, former Strapping Young Lad bassist, also joins in on the fun.
The stage show is incredible and you must own this on DVD to truly appreciate it. It gets a good polish job, but you really never lose the live feel. After the four-minute introduction by Vai, “Effervescent!/True North” rings in with a full choir. The show starts kicking ass with “Lucky Animals” and “Planet of the Apes” right after, complete with full costumes and regalia. While the stage show seems to take the focus here, the music never gets left behind. The brutality of “War,” “Planet Smasher” and the aforementioned SYL songs are amazing. “Ih-Ah,” “Bend it Like Bender!,” and “Juular” also sound stellar. Townsend went out of his way to make this production a feast for the eyes and the ears.
Devin Townsend has delivered an incredible performance, perhaps the best of his entire career. I am not a fan of musicals, but I can’t quit listening to The Retinal Circus.
The Retinal Circus is out now on Inside Out Music.
Rating: 5/5 Stars