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Live music review: rare Hardcore Devo performance thrilled Austin fans Thursday

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Hardcore Devo at ACL Live

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Pioneering new wave act Devo has enjoyed cult status since breaking through with commercial hit, "Whip It" in 1980. When founding member Bob Cassale (Bob2) passed away unexpectedly this year the surviving members decided to embark on a ten city tour featuring music from 1974-77 when the band first formed in Ohio. Proceeds from the tour were donated to Cassale's family. It is telling the band chose Austin to finish their tour Thursday night at the award-winning ACL Live at the Moody, a venue they sold-out when they last played there. Gerald Cassale has mentioned how much the group likes the acoustics and intimate setting.

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Over the years, Devo established the group as an act that played stirring (and calculated) live shows characterized by haz-mat jumpsuits, trademark red energy dome hats and great visual effects. The first half of the performance eschewed costumes and visuals in favor of a stripped down set-up. The band appeared on stage in t-shirts emblazoned with the late Cassale's image, sitting on stools while they ran through lesser-known tunes, "Mechanical Man," "Space Girl Blues" and "Bamboo Bimbo" among others.

As the set began, Mark Mothersbaugh (keyboards) and Gerald Cassale (guitar) joked that when the group wrote the material they selected for the tour, cigarette brands Chesterfields and Camels were popular. Mothersbaugh then tossed packs of smokes into the crowd. Many were wearing energy domes as they reached for the "souvenirs."

The second half of the show was marked by the appearance of a stagehand that delivered a box containing the same 70's era janitorial jumpsuits Devo wore at the outset of their career. After donning the outfits with clear, plastic masks and blue hard hats without leaving the stage, the band launched into a clever cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." Cassale commented, "That song used to clear the room, so we knew we were doing something right."

The song also signaled a set change as the panels of the faux brick wall behind the band were rotated to show timed LED lighting punctuating the music. The changeover provided a stark contrast between the first half of the set and the second.

With the band off their stools and rolling out crowd favorites, "Uncontrollable Urge" and "Jocko Homo" with their tagline, "Are We Not Men? We are Devo" the energy in the room picked up considerably. The phrase refers to the theory that technology is leading the de-evolution of man and the basis for their name. The 64 year-old Mothersbaugh hopped off the stage during the song, shoving his microphone in front of fans faces while they screamed the line along with him. It was suitably the high point of the set.

Clearly the band was clicking on all cylinders after playing nine shows with identical set lists leading into the final tour stop last night. Gifted session player Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle) displayed an uncanny touch on drums, providing a energetic punch to the music. Mothersbaugh tickled keys on both digital and analog synthesizers to produce the odd audio effects characteristic of Devo. His brother Bob followed suit on guitar playing a particularly stunning solo during "Uncontrollable Urge."

After a rousing "Fountain of Filth" followed by "Gut Feeling" Devo left the stage, returning for a three-song encore with aging mascot Booji Boy who used a walker as strains of "U Got Me Bugged" began. The encore ended appropriately with "Clockout." The full set list can be found below.

Make sure you view images Devo's performance by photographer Suzanne Cordeiro in our slideshow.

Set list:

Mechanical Man
Auto Modown
Space Girl Blues
Baby Talkin' Bitches
Fraulein
I Been Refused
Bamboo Bimbo
Beehive
Midget
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Rolling Stones cover)
Timing X
Soo Bawlz
Stop Look and Listen
Ono
Be Stiff
Uncontrollable Urge
Social Fools
Jocko Homo
Fountain of Filth
Gut Feeling

Encore:
Booji Boy's Funeral
U Got Me Bugged
Clockout

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