KATATONIA are true musical chameleons, able to play a moody, near-dark indoor club performance (as they did here) or a rollicking, rock star set in bright sunlight, on a giant festival stage (like Tuska 2011). Few bands have the repertoire, let alone the conviction and authenticity, to be able to pull off either situation. The drummer was sandwiched between matching scrims featuring a bird's skull and briars, smoke machine billowing wisps from behind. Everything was backlit, faces almost unrecognizable, from the OPETH school of stage presence, while the music is both more rocking and progressive. Anders Nystrom (guitar) could be a rock god, if anyone would let him (or could see him, haha!). Opening with a pair from the less than a month old Dead End Kings, 'Dead Letters' gave way to 'Buildings'. The stage was alternately lit blue, teal, pink (for concluding 'Leaders'), green, yellow (for 'July'), even blood red. Atmospheric, to say the least.
Prior to taking the stage, Townsend had a video screen show a variety of comedic bits, some with the Ziltoid puppet. A doppelganger for actor John Malkovich, the mastermind came onstage in suit blazer, looking more like a businessman than rocker. He seemed bemused by the sudden appearance of balloons bouncing across the stage during 'Supercrush', even grabbing one and "singing" to it, like a hard rock Shakespearean Hamlet speaking to Yorick's skull (or Tom Hanks talking to his volleyball pal Wilson in Cast Away). Throughout the evening, the white sheet behind the band showed a variety of visuals, as Devin worked his way around the stage, stopping at the three steel encased risers, offering, amongst others, 'Regulator', 'Planet Of The Apes', 'Vampira' and the encore, 'Bad Devil'. Apparently he's finally found his niche, as the audience was predominately Townsend's and certainly more numerous than when Strapping Young Lad played across town at the Troc, for City.