Hardcore DEVO: the Photos! The Review! Booji Boy! Energy Domes!

Dunno whether it was the magnetic pull of my incredible cleavage or that he’d become bored of signing VIPs’ merch, but when the first pic we attempted didn’t come out so hot, DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh decided to pose by plunking his head down on my bosom, allowing me to cradle my very own Booji Boy and grin like a maniac.

Backstage, Mothersbaugh was being playful – moreso than he or Gerry Casale or his brother (Bob 1) had during the gig they’d just finished at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. Perhaps they were still coming to terms with touring without Bob “2” Casale (who sadly passed away in February) – and there was definitely a hole in the stage that can never be filled. Perhaps it was the tech glitches – like basses not being plugged in, backdrop walls not being shifted at quite the right time or in the right way by stagehands or mic feedback during the encore. Whatever the case, this whis was not quite as fun-lovin’ and goofy a DEVO gig as their previous visit to Van.

But even a not-so-goofy DEVO show is still a goofy DEVO show. And that’s what makes them remarkable and valuable and IMPORTANT.

Showcasing songs on a tour dedicated to the weirdly experimental artsy electro punk of Hardcore DEVO Vols 1 & 2, this set would be “Whip It”-free, and instead filled with the kind of gems you only find on albums wedged in basement boxes among the old porn, a bowling trophy and mould. That is to say, wonderful strange treasures delivered to 2014 by a fake-wood-pannelled time machine.

Flanked by Josh Freese (one of the world’s best drummers-for-hire and longtime DEVO compadre), Gerry, Bob 1 and Mark took their stools on stage for an intro that TARDISed us back to 1974.  Mark read a reprinted newspaper with a headline about Nixon, while using a vocoder (“Are you using your tracheotomy voice?” Gerry quipped) to chat about why cigarettes were healthy and cool, before literally throwing packs of cigs into the audience. “One lung for smokin’! One lung for breathing!…remember, kids, this is 1974” Mark yelled, before the band launched into “Mechanical Man.” It was GREAT.

Devo, pic by Mikala Folb/backstagerider.comOther sparklies from them thar olden days came, like the funkadelic “Auto Modown” “Baby Talkin’ Bitches”, “Space Girl Blues” and a dorktastic “Bamboo Bimbo”, during which one person was, in fact, being VERY playful. Drummer Freese had a smile smacked on him half the time as if to say, when he looked up, “man, once again, I’m playing with legends.” Because it was true.

Mid-set, then, DEVO stripped on stage (mmmm, I love me some middle-aged pale white legs and calf-high black socks) to don blue workmen outfits, all bearing a name tag of “Devo”, in order to play the Stones’ cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The DEVOted spuds in the first few rows went wild. The blue-suit-era, during which DEVO also donned their freaky latex masks, included another anthem, “Jocko Homo” (“Are we not men? We are DEVO!”) as well as fun, bonkers stuff like “Soo Bawls”, “Stop Look Listen”, “Uncontrollable Urge”, “Be Stiff”, “Social Fools” and “Gut Feeling.”

Finally, for the encore, the creepy Booji Boy made an appearance, though he got lost on stage, going around in circles with his old-granny walker, and showing off his wonderful fluoro-pink onesy during a taped version of “Booji Boy’s Funeral”. He then plonked himself down to take us through the headfuck of “U Got Me Bugged” before the band rejoined and wrapped with a version of a track Gerry claimed they’d not played live since 1977, “Clockout.”

In all, there wasn’t as much goofing around, not quiet as much play as previous shows. But the smiles that beamed back at them filled the room. And on stage there was still a ton of heart, a ton of effort and a ton of legendary. Like the boxes of things you will never throw away because they’re simply too precious, DEVO are meant to be held dear. Which is pretty much what I did when Mark Mothersbaugh plunked his head down on my chest. \m/

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