Saturday evening on the Main Stage at the Forecastle Festival in Waterfront Park, Devo ripped through a nineteen-song set in 75 minutes; they changed costumes; they danced with reckless abandon ... and to think four out of five band members are in their late 50s or early 60s.
The band, who recently released Something for Everybody, their first album isince 1990's Smooth Noodle Maps, opened the show with a song off the new album, the catchy Don't Shot (I'm the Man). They followed that up with a song released in 1978, Peek-a-Boo. The next song was another new one, What We Do, which sounds like it could have been released in 1978 as well. Another chestnut, Going Under, was followed by their new single Fresh, which, indeed sounds just like its name. It, like their biggest hit Whip It, is an undeniable earworm.
Of the fourteen remaining songs, none were from their new album. (Interestingly, while they only played three songs off the new album, they did four off their debut Are We Not Men? We Are Devo.) For longtime fans who don't have the new album or just the casual listener who happened to be at the festival, this was probably welcomed news, but since the new album is quite good, it was a little disappointing not to hear new songs like Please Baby Please or Cameo. This all goes to show that artists can't win when it comes to set lists. Perhaps it was a little different because of the festival setting. But in an odd way, it's almost irrelevant what they played because anything would have been entertaining with these guys.
When they donned their famous energy dome hats - this time blue not red - the crowd showed their approval, and the applause grew louder when the band broke into Girl U Want, one of their most recognizable songs. That was followed by the before mentioned Whip It, in which lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh tossed three energy domes into the crowd.
In the middle of the set, the band went offstage while a video played on the massive video board behind the stage. When the band re-emerged, they were wearing their famous yellow jumpsuits and ran through covers (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and Secret Agent Man. Uncontrollable Urge followed with a great Led Zeppelin style guitar riff. During Mongoloid, Mothersbaugh used some red and gold pompons to cheer on the crowd.
During Jocko Homo, with its famous "Are we not men? We are Devo" chant, Mothersbaugh began ripping his jumpsuit off into pieces and throwing it in the crowd. During Gates of Steel, a young woman next to me, who was most likely younger than the song being played, said, "They're rockin' it right now." And she was right. While Bob Mothersbaugh (Mark's brother) stayed on guitar for the whole show, Bob Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh played guitar as well, and band co-founder and co-sonhwriter Jerry Casale played bass. Both Casales and Mark Mothersbaugh also played keyboards at various times. The funny thing about the synthesizers is that they don't sound dated; they sound, well, like Devo.
Their encore of Freedom of Choice and Beautiful World was a crowd pleaser with the later being a bit unusual. Dressed in a mask and long white and maroon colored - I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it looked like a cross between a hockey jersey and a choir robe - Mothersbaugh sang in his Booji Boy (pronounced "boogie") falsetto voice and told a strange, fictitious tale about going to Hollywood and meeting Michael Jackson years ago. Unusual? Yes? Unexpected? No? During Beautiful World, footage of the oil spill in the Gulf played as the hijinks ensued on stage. This was actually a great example of the commentary Devo usually offers on some serious topics that isn't so readily noticeable behind the fun show and audio-visuals.
Despite the fact that many in the eclectic crowd were not even born when Whip It came out, they seemed to enjoy the show. Then again, why not? The band played with great energy, sometimes at a frenetic pace. Age was no concern; I imagine a Devo show in 1985 probably wasn't much different. That's a compliment to any band that has been together for a long time, and not many artists can say that.
At the end of the show Mothersabaugh said, "Goodnight Lexington. We love you." With Devo, you just can't be sure if he simply made a mistake (a big one depending on who you ask), or was playing with the crowd. If so, it wouldn't be the first time the band did something bold or even outrageous.