Devo / June 19-30, 2007 / Manchester, England (Apollo); London (Shepherds Bush Empire); Bergamo, Italy (Lazzaretto); Azzano Decimo, Italy (Fiera Della Musica)
Some people may think that the four original members of DEVO, who are in their mid-to-late 50s, are too old to still be touring. In deference to that sentiment, as the show opens and Jerry Casale andSome people may think that the four original members of DEVO, who are in their mid-to-late 50s, are too old to still be touring. In deference to that sentiment, as the show opens and Jerry Casale and Bob "Bob 2" Casale are running in place in front of their synthesizers, Mark Mothersbaugh hobbles out onto the stage on a walker.
As he reaches center stage, he lifts the walker up over his head, begins shaking and twitching his body and throws the item out of sight. DEVO then spends the following 80 minutes dispelling any notion that they're too old to put on an energetic and entertaining show.
This tour marked DEVO's first return to Europe in 17 years. Many of the British concertgoers were reminiscing about either the last time that they saw the band, or about missing the last outing and how they wished they'd gone. The Italian crowd was notably different. Talking to dozens of attendees at both the Bergamo and Azzano Decimo concerts, I did not meet one who had ever before seen them live.
Many simply said something like, "I was 1 year old when they were last here." They all generally spent the entire concert dancing, sporting the kinds of ear-to-ear grins that are so genuine and so pure, while shaking their down-turned heads in "I can't believe I'm getting to see this" gestures.
The concert opens with a video of DEVO character General Boy explaining the different modes of dress that can be found at a DEVO concert as well as welcoming the attendees to the show, followed by a collage from the band's videos. As the video concludes, the band, wearing their famous yellow suits and red Energy Dome hats, opens with "That's Good."
The second song of the set is perhaps their best live, "Going Under." Josh Freese pounds the daylights out of his drums, Jerry Casale offers fluid dance movements as he plays a synth melody that gives Mark Mothersbaugh an opportunity to showcase his vocal abilities and range.
And it is also the set's first performance example of DEVO's philosophy -- they are a united front. Dance movements are only rarely synchronized - each individual makes their statement as part of the DEVO collective.
Next up is "Peek*a*Boo," which was added to the set list last year. Mark Mothersbaugh and Casale sing the bridge with wonderful harmonies not heard on the studio cut.
Two consecutive big hits, "Girl U Want" and "Whip It," expectedly drive the throngs wild. As DEVO's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," begins, Bob 1 plugs his ears and grimaces as Mark Mothersbaugh, with effects pedals duct-taped to his guitar, blares out the introductory solo.
The band's yellow suits are mostly dispensed with during "Uncontrollable Urge," while Mark Mothersbaugh wields orange and yellow pom-poms to rev up the audience on "Mongoloid." Next, "Jocko Homo" espouses DEVO's philosophy with authority: despite humanity's superficial pride in all that we feel we've accomplished, we are actually de-evolving. People, our governments, our ideals -- they are all getting dumber and dumber.
What's left of the suits goes flying into the audience during "Jocko Homo," with Mark Mothersbaugh engaging the audience by repeatedly asking "Are we not men?" and holding the microphone to various crowd members who scream the answer, "We are DEVO."
As the song concludes, Mark Mothersbaugh immediately launches into the slowly building synth intro to "Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA." Bob 1 runs up to and leaps on top of his stage monitor to start his solo. He slides onto his knees, concluding it by yanking back on his whammy bar until his guitar strings snap.
After "Gates of Steel," the "DEVO Corporate Anthem" plays to a video of the five original members standing in line, their hair blowing in the wind, raising their hands in unison to salute.
The encore begins with "Freedom of Choice," again reminding us how our society is de-evolving. Although we feel we have a freedom of choice, more and more we want our decisions made for us. Freedom of choice is what we've got, but freedom from choice is what we seem to desire.
The show concludes with Casale introducing someone who "is as old as the mountains, yet unborn": Mark Mothersbaugh wearing a mask as DEVO character Booji Boy. In what appear to be pajamas, Booji Boy sings "Beautiful World" in his high-pitched, squeaky voice.
Concert attendees who have been to previous years' tours undoubtedly noted two specific things. First, Bob 2 has and expends more energy during the concert compared to recent years. He seemed to always be smiling -- DEVO just seems to have so much fun doing what they do. The second is that, for whatever reason, Mark Mothersbaugh's singing voice is notably better than ever.
After the Azzano Decimo show, I asked one fan what she thought after seeing DEVO live for her first time. With an aghast look on her face, she replied, "Beyond. They are beyond. There is nothing beyond them."