Susan and I saw Devo perform last night at the Fair Park bandshell in Dallas. It was the first time Devo had played Dallas in 16 years. They only play a few shows a year due to their TV and movie soundtrack work. The Psychadelic Furs (Pretty in Pink and one or two other 80s hits) opened for Devo. An even more obscure, one hit wonder band called When in Rome opened for the Psychadelic Furs. The first band started at 8pm and Devo didn’t actually start until about 10:45pm. But they were worth the wait. We got the pre-show briefing from General Boy on the big video screen and then the band marched out in their classic yellow hazmat suits and red energy domes. Quite a few of the audience members were wearing the cheap plastic knockoff energy domes. I’m proud to say I have a real energy dome from the 1980s. (but you don’t wear a priceless antique like that to a live show!)
Unlike a lot of 80s bands who look tired and old compared to how they looked when they were new, Devo still has it. They play with as much energy as modern punk bands, and they put on a show second to none. The audio clarity was suprisingly good for a live show. A few songs in, about midway through Uncontrollable Urge, Mothersbaugh starting rippping off his own and then the other’s hazmat suits, revealing black T-shirts more appropriate to the 100+ degree Texas weather. He hurled their energy domes into the audience. In fact, they seemed to be hurling Devo debris into the audience throughout most of the show. Energy domes, torn pieces of hazmat suits, guitar picks, Devo action figures, hundreds of little bouncy balls of some sort. They played for about two hours and most of the material was from their first two albums; the late 70s, pre-Whip It, pre-new wave stuff with the raw punk-like sound. They played a few songs from Freedom of Choice including, of course, Whip It, which many people identify with the band. They opened with That’s Good, the only song they played from one of the later synth-heavy albums.
Several of the songs had evolved (devolved?) over the years from the sound on the original recording. Some of the guitar solos were spectacular in that they sounded completely unlike guitar solos one usually hears. True to Devo style, they sounded completely unlike sounds one is accustomed to hearing come from guitars at all. If you’ve never heard Devo, there are still a few live shows left on this year’s tour. Some years they only play one or two live events so if you get the chance, take it.