May 13, 2012
What better way to tell your mother you love her by taking her to see Devo on Mother's Day? Old-school punks and energy dome-wearing fans packed into the Observatory in Santa Ana to catch an intimate performance from the pioneering art-damaged, synthpunk group.
Clad in their grey jumpsuits, Mark Mothersbaugh was collapsed on the floor and suddenly sprang to life for the opening salvo of “Don't Shoot (I'm A Man)” from their 2010 album Something for Everybody. It didn't take long for them to jump into their back catalog as the siren-sounding synthesizers of “Peek-A-Boo!” kicked up the energy level. The song still sounded fresh despite being over thirty years old.
Touring drummer Jeff Friedl started to pound away the beat to “Going Under” as the band had shed its grey facial masks. It was a perfect blend of new and old material as they ripped through “Fresh” and then turned back the clock to “That's Good” as Mark Mothersbaugh aimed his microphone at the crowd and mockingly shot them with the coinciding drum beats.
Jerry Casale took a moment to tell the crowd that the Mayan calendar was incorrect and that they would be stuck with Devo for a long time before asking the crowd if they were ready to “Whip It.” A giant LCD screen behind the band flashed images of Earth during “Planet Earth” as energy dome-clad fans danced in the aisles.
Devo took a small break to run off stage and reappear in their classic yellow Devo jumpsuits for the off-kilter cover of “Satisfaction” as Mark Mothersbaugh strummed his guitar for a highly processed shrieking sound. Delving into another classic Devo cover, “Secret Agent Man,” had Gerald Casale rocking out on his lefty bass.
Things started to devolve during “Uncontrollable Urge” as they started to tear off their yellow jumpsuits and throw them into the crowd for a precious souvenir. Encouraging crowd participation, “Mongoloid” Mark Mothersbaugh climbed the speakers and cheered the crowd on with his efficient use of pom-poms.
My highlight of the evening was the torrential washes of synthesizer noise at the end of “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA.” The noise bursts appeared again during “Gates of Steel” triggered from the small-but-powerful microKorg synthesizer that ended up closing out their main set.
The “Devo Corporate Anthem” signaled the return of the band to the stage as they charged into “Freedom of Choice” as Mark Mothersbaugh ripped open a Doritos bag and threw the contents into the crowd. Their closing opus, “Beautiful World,” featured Mark Mothersbaugh donning the “Booji Boy” persona and extolling the virtues of loving your mother. It definitely was a Mother's day to remember.
Critical Bias: The band put on the same show I reviewed back in August of last year at the Grove in Anaheim. And I would still review it again in a heartbeat.
Overheard In The Crowd: “I want to buy an energy dome!”
Random Notebook Dump: There was a crazy punk show going on in the Constellation Room before Devo went on.
Don't Shoot (I'm A Man)
What We Do
Girl U Want
Secret Agent Man
Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
Gates of Steel
DEVO Corporate Anthem
Freedom of Choice