The Devolution Is Here

Devo‘s first Melbourne performance in 25 years was ‘a dream come true’ cofounder Mark Mothersbaugh told the audience – in falsetto – as Booji Boy during the finale ‘Beautiful World’. Most of the audience were ‘less beautiful than their parents’ who had attended Devo‘s last show in 1983. Australia was ‘relatively untouched then’ compared to the post-industrial decay in Devo’s hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The 90-minute setlist centered on Devo’s first three albums from 1978-82. After opening with clips from Chuck Statler’s film In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution (1975) the band played the MTV hits ‘Whip It’ and ‘Girl U Want’ early in the set. Devo’s heavy rock arrangements became even more intense when they dispensed with the Korg keyboard at the front-of-stage and their trademark yellow radiation suits to reveal black t-shirts and shorts. Session drummer Josh Freese kept a fast drum tempo, Bob Casale switched deftly between keyboards and rhythm guitar, Bob Mothersbaugh added lead guitar histrionics to ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, ‘Gut Feeling’ and the Rolling Stones cover ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’, whilst Gerald Casale’s vocals on ‘Secret Agent Man’ highlighted the band’s humour. The first encore ‘Freedom of Choice’ became a satire on Pax America: ‘If you want proof of devolution just look at the current White House’, Mark Mothersbraugh told fans. For me, ‘Jocko Homo’ was the standout track with MIDI keyboard samples, jerky robotic stage moves, a wall of sound, and the audience singing the anthematic chorus.

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