— Leave it at home

Devo forever, Devo live 2008 forget it

In branding briefs there is a requirement to match the messages with the experience, otherwise the brand risks turning advocates into enemies.

A regular complaint of young bands is patronage. Audiences are willing to pay over a hundred dollars to see some crusty old band, and yet won‘t part with ten or fifteen dollars for new lesser known acts. Not since seeing Lee Scratch Perry in Sydney in the late 1990s and Bob Dylan in Melbourne in 2008, has one felt so disillusioned with seeing older acts in concert. That was until Devo‘s recent tour came to town to top the lot.

According to wikipedia, Devo was formed in 1973, their front man Mark Mothersbaugh was born in 1950. Devo‘s great legacy has been built over 30 years with a memorable song list, a manifesto, a curious assortment of performance antics enforced by a striking collection of music videos. As one can expect and appreciate, the idea of what Devo was back in the early 1980s as compared to what they are today is a different thing — they are in their late fifties for one thing.

How long ago did Devo look like this, or this as depicted on thevine.com.au promoting the 2008 tour?

The 2008 version was a performance stuck in a 1980s time warp. Their awkward, tired and silly manifestation isn‘t remotely like the slim confident rendering protrayed in poster material — see the image appropriated to promote the 2008 tour. What came from Thursday‘s performance was a respect for entertainers that are realistic about their image and capability by providing their audiences a manifestation that interprets their past with the present. Brian Eno comes to mind. Eno‘s policy to not revisit past projects unless the project is a new manifestation is a unpredictable and adventurous choice. The Rolling Stones with their grandfathers of rock stance is very clear statement of what to expect. Kraftwerk‘s (pictured also formed in the early 1970) recent tour was amazing experience where the group produced an experience that rocked, inspired and exceeded expectations.

Kraftwerk at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2004

It has been 25 years since Devo played in Melbourne and on this visit they were supported by local acts Regurgitator and (ecsr) eddy current suppression ring. As it turned out one should of started the night at 7.30pm, saw (ecsr) then Regurgitator and left at that point to dine over the memory of Devo. If you turned up to only see Devo, one witnessed a bunch of guys in unflattering yellow jump suits bounce on stage, to destroy every great song that ever passed their lips with average musicianship, vocal range and interpretation.

The set didn‘t start until the second song — a favourite, Peek-a-boo, it warmed up a little when the yellow suits were ripped off revealing black tees, matching shorts and knee socks. Then the encore came at 10.50pm, which slam dunked any good memory of Devo that one was left with, as a dire rendering of a Beautiful World ringed out by Booji Boy, in herendous falsetto no less. It was time to hit the bar and down a cocktail aptly named a lady boy and block out the last 70 minutes.

From wiki again, the name “Devo” comes “from their concept of ‘de-evolution’ – the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society. If Devo stayed true to this manifesto, as their loyalty to their dress sense suggested, they would have evolved their act into an idea compliments their current form — instead the audience was left to think that Devo is deluded or cashing in on well intentioned fans. It would have been exciting to see a Devo that evolved their ideas and appropriated them to recent history, and re-applied the concept of their image in a contemporary context. Instead we witnessed guys doing dress ups at a pop themed party, that had the potential to be a vibrant act with roots in punk and new wave music.

One recommends to see Devo at your own risk, or see Mark Mothersbaugh when he comes to town with recent projects that touch on his work in composition, sound track and theme music. Or stick to watching Devo‘s extraordinary film clips, playing their songs on your ipod and taking the time to see groups like ECRS live next time they are playing in your neighbourhood.

Visit ECSR, Kraftwerk here,


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