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By JASON BERK
“Are we not men?” It has been nearly 50 years since DEVO first asked that immortal question, and the Akron natives continued to preach the merits of de-evolution to a packed house at the YouTube Theater on Thursday night as part of their “Farewell Tour.”
Fans of all ages filled the seats, red and blue energy domes atop their heads, for a high-energy, 90-minute show that covered the width and breadth of DEVO’s career (recently committed to vinyl on the 4-LP boxed set, “DEVO: Celebrating 50 Years of De-evolution, 1973-2023”). From 1977’s debut single “Mongoloid” to 2010’s show-opening “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” nearly every facet of DEVO’s unique spin on new wave was represented, with costumes to match.
Mark Mothersbaugh, noted film composer and de facto leader of the band, worked up a sweat marching around back and forth between center stage and his keyboard rig stage right, as well as working the crowd with incredibly precise, sharp choreography. He was flanked on either side by longtime co-writer Gerald Casale (bass/vocals), and brother Bob “Bob 1” Mothersbaugh (guitar/vocals). Accompanying the surviving original members were keyboardist/guitarist Josh Hager (standing in for the late Bob “Bob 2” Casale) and drummer Jeff Friedl, both of whom immediately fell in line with the band’s particular brand of idiosyncrasy.
The first half of the show was heavy on the band’s synth-driven early ’80s output, with the band in matching black shirts and iconic red energy domes, blasting full speed through classics like “Girl U Want” and “Whip It.”
But halfway through the main set, the band changed into matching yellow jumpsuits and the harder-rocking side of DEVO emerged. Starting with their off-kilter cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the back half of the set was a loud, frantic, guitar-centric affair. Mothersbaugh acted as cheerleader during “Mongoloid,” complete with pom-poms, and took “Jocko Homo” to new heights as he leapt into the crowd and asked as many people as he could, “Are we not men?” The main set finished with the one-two punch of a high-octane “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA” and fan favorite “Gates of Steel” as DEVO left the stage to the strains of the “DEVO Corporate Anthem,” reemerging one final time in matching sack-like tops that spelled out the band’s name.
For the finale, 1981’s “Beautiful World,” the crowd was not only treated to an appearance by band mascot Booji Boy (Mark Mothersbaugh in a perpetually unsettling little boy mask) but also Berlin’s Terri Nunn, trading vocals with Booji Boy and adding harmonies to the proceedings.
The band promised we’d all meet back there again in 2073 for “DEVO 100,” and I certainly plan on being there for the occasion. For five decades they have asked, “Are we not men?” They are men, but they’re so much more — they are DEVO. Indeed, we are all DEVO.
Setlist: Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man), Peek-A-Boo!, Going Under, That’s Good, Girl U Want, Whip It, Planet Earth, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Secret Agent Man, Uncontrollable Urge, Mongoloid, Jocko Homo, Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA, Gates of Steel, DEVO Corporate Anthem. Encore: Freedom of Choice, Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy), Beautiful World
Photos by Stevo Rood / ARood Photo