Devin Townsend, ‘The Retinal Circus’ – CD/DVD Review
What is a ringmaster? Though he's the show's most visible performer, a ringmaster charismatically showcases awe-inspiring acts while focusing the spotlight towards a myriad of characters outside of himself. In more modern eras, a ringmaster has been even known to sing and dance with his performers during the show. Devin Townsend knows this, and he plays the ringmaster perfectly throughout his new live CD/DVD 'The Retinal Circus.'
Devin Townsend has always been a visual being. Even when simply listening to Townsend's music, its avant-garde nature has sparked the imaginations of his loyal followers. Although Townsend uses video screens and colorful visuals during his usual performances, the concept of expansion has been desired to meet the imaginations of fans, along with Townsend himself. Finally, 'The Retinal Circus' has given a visual equivalent to the ideas shooting throughout the mind of Devin Townsend.
'The Retinal Circus' is just that: a conceptual orgasm of the eyes. Clocking in at well over two hours, Townsend pieces together his diverse career with a free-flowing narrative, which is actually narrated by guitar legend Steve Vai. As Vai eloquently explains, 'The Retinal Circus' chronicles "a story about a young man [Harold] who goes to sleep, and through characters, dreams the emotional metaphors that climax into the realization that life is all about relationships; a musical journey into the collective unconscious."
'The Retinal Circus' feels like Disneyland's 'It's a Small World' on hallucinogenics. Along with acting as a musical, Townsend's one-night-only gig in London encompasses and assaults the viewer with more characters and nuances than you can conceive. However, Townsend fans are certain to pay special attention to Ziltoid the Omniscient, who his heavily involved within 'The Retinal Circus,' much to the frenzied excitement of Townsend fanatics. Musically, 'The Retinal Circus' includes a ton of 'Epicloud' material, but it also delivers some highly anticipated 'Ziltoid the Omniscient' live renditions and even some gems by Strapping Young Lad.
Devin Townsend's 'Retinal Circus' is truly a celebration of the man's entire career. His set ventures through many peaks and valleys, beginning with the beautiful 'Effervescent! / True North' mix as a church-like choir adds a spiritual punch that radiates throughout London's Roundhouse. After some pseudo-aggressive pieces from 'Infinity' and 'Synchestra,' among other albums, Townsend goes acoustic with 'Hyperdrive' for the concert's most intimate moment. The finale, which features 'Love?' by Strapping Young Lad and the ascending 'Grace' caps off the night with radiant energy, or more succinctly, joy.
It's a shame that 'The Retinal Circus' isn't a staple of Broadway or Las Vegas, because its production value and musical qualities could conceivably rally for a successful run in a 'Cirque du Soleil' meets 'Rock of Ages' type of way. Until then, grab a copy of 'The Retinal Circus.'