Last Night: Devo at the Grand

Categories: Last Night
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DEVO performing Freedom of Choice
November 7, 2009
The Grand At The Regency

Better than: It's a live Devo show. The fact that it still happens at all makes it better than most things.

The concept for this weekend's performances, like nearly everything Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale & Co comes up with, was brilliant: Perform two classic albums from the Devo catalog, one each in its entirety, on consecutive nights. In deciding upon their notable debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! along with Freedom Of Choice, Devo chose wisely. The former captured the band's punk-prophets-of-the-future vibe, while the latter housed some of their most sophisticated musicianship, notably "Girl U Want."

The execution, though, barely clocked in at sixty minutes per night. For fans who had waited over 30 years to see the band, was it enough? With both LPs' recorded material lasting only slightly longer than half an hour, the Spudboys stretched out their stage time by adding videos from their MTV heyday on the Freedom night and screening their classic The Truth About De-Evolution from their days as students at Kent State prior to performing Q: Are We Not Men?

As a band with its own philosophy - de-volution - and its own mythology - Booji Boy and General Boy - Devo predicted humanity's regression in a wired world even as the musicians themselves went about plugging into synthesizers and computerized effects. Freedom Of Choice's lyrical content about democracy, as cautionary as it was anthemic, has proven to be the ultimate Revenge Of The Nerds treatise and soundtrack. Performed on Saturday night, the album from 1980, and in particular the songs "Gates of Steel" and the title track, sounded triumphant.


An encore of 1978's "Be Stiff," was followed by "Beautiful World," which came with a monologue from Mothersbaugh. Dressed as Booji Boy, the singer told a baffling tale about meeting Michael Jackson. Maybe it was an attempt at going back to the band's earlier confrontational persona, but throwing in songs from the previous night's album would've been a better way to send the crowd home, especially given its de-votion.

In comparison, Friday night's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was louder, ballsier, and more exuberant, which, given the pacing of Saturday night's show, is saying a lot. From the opening "Uncontrollable Urge" straight through to the rowdy encore of Duty Now For The Future's "Smart Patrol/ Mr DNA" with its guitar-string busting solo, Devo sounded less like techno godfathers and more like garage punks.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Freedom of Choice had long been my favorite of the band's material, but the weekend's performances bumped Q: Are We Not Men? up to the number one slot.

Random Detail: I counted several father-and-pre-tween-son pairs in attendance, and in every case the kid was wearing the red Energy Dome hat that could be had from the merch table for $30 a pop.

By the way:
I saw Exene Cervenka being ushered through the crowd; an interesting sighting since another punk legend, Jello Biafra, was performing a few blocks away at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday night.

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