Live Reviews

Devo – Live

Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 26.6.07

Tonight is the final show of Devo’s first UK tour in 17 years, and it seems that absence really has made the hearts grow fonder. It may not have been a total sell-out (probably due to the rather pricey tickets), but a brief glance at the queue outside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire reveals no end of Devo-tion on show from the fans; many of whom are adorned in trademark Devo yellow boiler suits and red ‘energy dome’ hats. Fashionable they certainly aren’t, but such dedication makes for a great atmosphere – and let’s face it, there are plenty of bands out there that would envy such a partisan following.

But then, Devo aren’t – and never have been – like most other bands. Bizarre sartorial sense aside, the Ohio quintet’s heavy use of synthesizers effectively paved the way for New Wave music in the late 70s, whilst their fascination with the concept of devolution (effectively, evolution in reverse) offered plenty of lyrical food for thought. Something of a geek’s wet dream, then, but it’s hard to argue with tunes like ‘Girl U Want‘ and ‘Whip It‘ – most of which still sound as good tonight as they did back in the day.

Their surreal sense of humour also remains intact after all these years; with guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh shuffling onstage in a zimmer frame before casting it aside to play his instrument. The band may be well into their fifties (with the exception of drummer Josh Freese), but they sound superb, and look as endearingly ridiculous as ever. We’re treated to plenty of robotic dancing, and a change of stage garb to black, cyclist-esque outfits; but nothing can quite top vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh‘s re-appearance as the band’s beloved ‘Booji Boy‘ creation for the finale of ‘Beautiful World‘. Dressed like a schoolboy and singing in a falsetto, he is an indication of why Devo fans ultimately learn to expect the unexpected.

How many of you believe that devolution is real?” asks bassist Gerry Casale, to cheers of affirmation from the crowd. “You don’t have to look very far for evidence, do you?” A fair point, indeed; and reason enough for Devo to have a good laugh behind their detractors’ backs. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 17 years for their return.

Alex Gosman