Ten years on and still they rise: Devilskin at the Powerstation, Auckland

Devilskin brought their We Rise tenth-anniversary tour to a close at Auckland’s Powerstation last night, and what a way to end the trip. The four-piece from Hamilton released We Rise, their debut album, in 2014, and have been celebrating the landmark with a dozen dates across the motu, from Invercargill to Whangaparaoa.

Last night, the closing night of the tour, brought Devilskin, along with support acts Tadpole and Skinny Hobos, to the Powerstation, a sold-out venue for one of Aotearoa’s most beloved metal bands. Following two very well-received opening sets—Tadpole in particular, singer Emma Dilemma’s vocals cutting through a sound that featured, most intriguingly, DJ Kritiki on turntables.

But the audience—and their T-shirts made this quite clear—weren’t here just for Tadpole, or Skinny Hobos. Devilskin took to the stage a little after 10, Jennie Skulander firing a smoke cannon into the audience. Set opener Elvis Presley Circle Pit was, seriously, heavy. Paul Martin’s bass was ferocious, a 32nd-note bombard that both drove the song with some astonishing intensity and set the agenda for the remainder of the evening. His little boy Nic, now the band’s permanent drummer, kept the pace and matched his dad beat for beat. And Nail—Tony Vincent to his mum and his mates—managed to find a fine balance between laying down the melodies and and shredding to great effect.

The Powerstation is, without doubt, my favourite music venue in Auckland. It’s intimate, it sounds great, it just works. But it was the wrong venue for last night’s show. Devilskin are a Kiwi phenomenon—they might not get the attention they deserve internationally, but at home, especially in Tāmaki Makaurau and especially last night, they are a presence to be reckoned with. Perhaps they’re not quite ready to fill out an arena like Spark, but the Powerstation stage was too small for what this band brought to town last night, and they needed a bigger stage to show off what they can do on one.

Nail stage left, and Martin stage right, left little room for Skulander to move, and move she does. She’s an electric stage presence, which is only fair given that she is possessed of a quite stupendous voice. Songs like Vessel let her soar and swoop and show off a quite remarkable range that more than matches the intensity of the music she sings over.

And there’s clearly a desire to bust out the theatrics. Vessel opened with Skulander wielding a chainsaw at the audience; we could smell the petrol from the photo pit. But the venue simply didn’t quit allow her to move between her bandmates as much as she clearly wanted. They’re experienced enough, though, clearly, to make it work, and any complaints I may have here are about the venue, not the band that played it last night.

The setlist, of course, offered few surprises. This was, as we’ve seen, billed as the We Rise 10th Anniversary Tour, and so the first 14 songs were, indeed, We Rise played in its entirety. This show, presumably, wasn’t intended to win any new converts or garner any new fans; it didn’t need to. The legion of fans who came to Newmarket on a cold Saturday night went home very, very happy.

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