Devo Warehouse Live March 25, 2011
See more peek-a-boo pics of Devo, openers Octopus Project and their fans in our slideshow.
When Aftermath first heard Devo's latest album, Something for Everybody, we listened with a cringe. It had been 20 years since the band had released a new album, and this one seemed to veer too closely into Weird Al territory, with comedic references to hybrid cars and the University of Florida taser incident.
But Friday night, after finally getting to see the band perform their new material, something clicked. Devo's message hasn't change much since the mid-1970s, it's just that they're more relevant now that ever before.
The band opened with "Don't Shoot," two synths onstage and Mark Mothersbaugh looking stoic as a giant LED screen displayed graphics behind the band. Their second song, "Peek-A-Boo," set the pattern for the rest of the show: the set list alternated old hits with newer and lesser-known material.
It was when the band sang "It's all the same, there's nothing new" on last year's "What We Do" that everything fell into place. By now the guys were starting to show a bit of energy onstage and the sound had transitioned from New Wave to pure rock and roll. But of all the songs off the new album, "What We Do" is the one that felt the most quintessentially Devo-esque.
See, the band has enjoyed some fame even without a new album over the years in part because of Mothersbaugh's collaborations with director Wes Anderson. 20-year-olds who might have only known the band from the "Whip It" video now know "Gut Feeling" and "Girl U Want" thanks to Anderson's soundtracks.
So when they sing about internet memes like "Don't Taze Me Bro," they're commenting on our ephemeral, consumable culture while themselves staying essentially the same. By the way, they did play "Whip It" and "Girl U Want" only about 20 minutes in.
The band broke about halfway through their set list for a fourth costume change and were re-introduced by an announcer:
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, here on Earth, your fellow travelers in space and time."
Backstage, the band had traded their synths for string guitars. After a few covers ("Satisfaction," "Secret Agent Man"), they started to tear off their yellow paper jumpsuits while singing "Mongoloid." It's kind of amazing they still have the balls to play that song.
Whatever doubts Aftermath had about the band's remaining stage energy were diminished. Bob Mothersbaugh even had a few guitar solos, Mothersbaugh was beginning to look like a mad scientist, and Gerald Casale was emploring the crowd to answer back to his question "Are We Not Men?"
"How many of you think devolution is real? You don't have to look far," he asked.
Playing their biggest hit in the early part of their 90-minute set was a pretty big FU to the concert status quo. As if Devo's message still wasn't clear enough, the band closed their encore with "Beautiful World," Mothersbaugh in his Booji Boy mask, singing the entire song in falsetto.
Personal Bias: Have always wanted to see Devo but was foiled last year after they had to cancel their Fun Fun Fun Fest appearance when Bob Mothersbaugh injured his hand.
The Crowd: Well-mannered, lots of families.
Overheard In the Crowd: Monkey sounds from Mark Mothersbaugh, who mingled on the floor jduring "Uncontrollable Urge."
Random Notebook Dump: During "Freedom of Choice," the first song in the encore, they came out on stage in Hawaiian-style shorts with hotdogs on them. Our notes: "They've gone Margaritaville."