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9/15/16 – Transcending the Coma Tour – The Devin Townsend Project / Between the Buried and Me with Fallujah – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA

Traffic and parking prevented us from witnessing opening act Fallujah’s performance. Reports seem to indicate that they put their latest release Dreamless firmly in the spotlight.

Between the Buried and Me were the second act of the evening and, as promised, played their latest album Coma Ecliptic in full. Coma Ecliptic was my favorite album of 2015, so seeing it in person was an experience that was perhaps best appreciated by those of us who had a familiarity with the concept and story. Then again, fans of progressive rock can also enjoy it as it may be the most accessible collection of songs the band has put out yet. The narrative helps to make it cohesive as a collection.

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Tommy Rogers and company tore through the set, only stopping briefly early on to greet the crowd. Given the co-headliner restraints of each act only having 70 minutes and a 69 minute album to get through, this was completely understandable.

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While Rogers was able to display more of his clean vocals (with his harsh growls often punctuating things) the real MVP of the performance may have been drummer Blake Richardson. Shifting tempos and wild contrasts between subtle and thunderous beats would have given lesser drummers fits.

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Visually, the band was often obscured by white fog yet also highlighted by an aggressive light show. At times, the lights were cut with only a single overhead light highlighting Rogers, creating an intimacy in the moments, despite the size of the venue.

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Tonight was Devin Townsend‘s turn to play last and, in hindsight, it was a very appropriate order for the lineup. While BTBAM was focused, efficient and dialed-in with their performance, Townsend and his band were much more free-wheeling, able to move around the stage, and willing to joke/interact with the crowd. His stage banter was nearly worth the price of admission by itself.

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Bathed in a stage lit by blues and purples and unencumbered by the promise of performing an entire album, The Devin Townsend Project was free to explore their discography and blend the epic and the heavy in a way that kept the audience guessing. With the recent release of Transcendence, one might think that they would try to force a disproportionate number of these tracks into the show, but the two that were played were blended seamlessly into a very varied set that should have pleased fans old and new.

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In fact, throughout the whole evening, the closest thing to a disappointment might be that the Devin Townsend Project didn’t play “Planet of the Apes” which, on the Deconstruction record, featured Tommy Rogers from BTBAM. In many ways, an on-stage collaboration would have made all the sense in the world, but seeing as it’s an 11 minute song, that would have taken up a disproportionate amount of precious time.

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Things wound down with an acoustic version of “Ih-Ah,” replete with audience participation. Things ended for good with a new track, ‘Higher’ which was a bold move, but paid off and had the audience clamoring for more. It was not to be, as the band had played to their time limit. A true encore and even longer set will have to wait for a proper headliner.

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The ‘Transcending The Coma Tour’ worked on a number of levels. It lifted up an emerging band (Fallujah), caught one band as they wound down an album’s touring cycle (Between the Buried and Me) and introduced the world to another band’s newest release (The Devin Townsend Project).

An evening of complex, intricate music all amounted to one thing: a good time had by all.

Words by JJ Ellis
Photos by Henry Chung