Even before the show began, it was clear that the cult following that new wave rockers, DEVO, have gained through the years. Some were sporting the energy dome hats that were made famous in 1980, some proudly wore their own radiation suits, and one person that I saw had even brought their own DEVO toys.
DEVO formed back in the early 70s in Ohio and rose to fame in 1980 with their hit, “Whip It,” maintaining their cult following from then on. Made up of brothers Bob and Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerard Casale, and Josh Freese, DEVO’s music became highly influential to modern day pop music, and each of the members have offered their talents to others as score composers, session musicians, and video directors. In 2010, the band released their newest album in 10 years, Something for Everybody, which, despite the band’s hiatus, ranked well on the Billboard charts. Their current tour, Hard Core DEVO, brought the band to Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern on Monday night for a show for the ages.
The opening setup seemed like the show would play out more as an acoustic set, as everyone but Mark took a seat at their respective places on stage. A wall placed behind them, with dim lights shining through three windows, Mark opened a 50 year old newspaper at his keyboard before proceeding to rain several packs of cigarettes upon the audience. The band got off to a great start with the audience, opening with a crowd favorite “Mechanical Man.” Despite the casual setting, the audience was more than keen to sing along with the utmost enthusiasm.
Playing through what began as a fairly relaxed set, the band eventually stepped away from their stools and got changed into a more familiar look, their radiation jumpsuits. Where I thought that the band had retired to playing low energy shows, I was proven wrong. The wall panels were moved into a new position, and the light show began. DEVO’s energy took a 180, as throughout the rest of the night they shed any visible signs of their age and danced around the stage with the same fervor as they had years ago.
At one point, the band left the stage. Seconds later, Booji Boy, a creation of the band consisting of Mark dressed in a somewhat creepy child’s mask, emerged from backstage to perform “U Got Me Bugged.” Afterwards, the band invited the son of the late Bob Casale (who had died earlier this year) to perform for the rest of the show.
Throughout the night, the band took time to talk to the audience about their rise to fame, often with deadpan humour. They took their blast to the past so far as to wear skin tight masks of themselves from their younger years. Their songs would purposefully slip into discordance while just as quickly slip back to an incredible display of musical bravato. Their shows pull far from the typical concert, mixing their humour and wit, with kitsch and often low brow theatrics. The blending of the two works well in a concert setting, providing DEVO fans, and new comers alike a show that is hard to forget.