Fifty years ago the American top 40 was populated by the likes of Carly Simon, Loggins and Messina, Albert Hammond, and Seals and Croft. You get the picture.
In 1973, in Akron Ohio, brothers Mothersbaugh and Casales had other ideas. With drummer Alan Myers alongside them, they eventually became Devo’s classic lineup. Spurned on in part by the Kent State shootings, Devo embraced the social theory of de-evolution. Art-rock, new-wave, surrealist humour mixed with satire – all these tags have been thrown at the band.
In Brisbane this week, on the cusp of bringing their touring years in Australia to a close, they played to a full house of ‘spuds’.
The venue sold out weeks ago. The merchandise line was the longest this writer has ever seen at the venue. Devo might be all about satire and sending up corporations, but they can still convince adults in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond to part with a hundred and fifty bucks for a signed plastic hat in the shape of a plant pot.
Okay… it’s a ‘terraced energy dome’.
The Devo lineup now includes Gerard Casale, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, new drummer Jeff Friedl, and guitarist Josh Hagar, who has been with the band for almost a decade.
Their QPAC show started with the hilarious record company send-up in the form of the Ron Rooter Now and Then video. The band then hit the stage and went straight into “Don’t Shoot (‘I’m a Man’)”, “Peek-A-Boo!”, and “Going Under”.
The video backdrop was fantastic throughout, with a twisted hyper-real Devo-unique mix that was part punk and part pop art.
Things moved up a gear early on with the sublime “Girl U Want” and the era-defining “Whip It”. Mark Mothersbaugh was in fine voice and the band was cooking on all cylinders.
A Carl Sagan video then allowed for a costume change, and the band returned to the stage for a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man”.
More costume changes followed and the band stretched out on the likes of “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Gates of Steel”.
The final furlong played out with a searing “Freedom of Choice”, “Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy)”, and a euphoric “Beautiful World” that featured Mark Mothersbaugh playing Booji Boy.
A terrific show all-round, it may have been billed as the 50th anniversary farewell tour, but Mothersbaugh wants to see everybody back at the venue and in their seats for the 100th anniversary in 2073.
I hope you can make it ‘spuds’.
Devo now head to Good Things Festival and Melbourne. Ticket information can be found here.