It’s refreshing to arrive at a venue to find that the hardcore fans confronting you are not art school kids with delicate features but 50-year-old men with world worn scowls.
Devo’s hardcore fan base, clad totally unironically in trade mark Energy Dome hats, have come to see a band that have not been mercilessly hyped at the beginning of the year, but cultivated a reputation for almost unequalled originality and inspiration in their music.
When they take to the stage in their yellow jumpsuits, necessarily enhanced around the waist since when they first performed these tracks in the 7'0s, it’s clear that the old hardcore are not going to allow any chin stroking from the younger fan base. With Mark Motherbaugh’s opening cry "Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ye ye ye ye ye yeah," groups of men who should know better slam past the unprepared younguns to get to the front, creating a mosh pit of rather heavier and sweatier proportions than your current post punk/art rock band could muster.
The performance itself is not smothered by the necessity of the ‘Don’t Look Back’ requirement, that they play the album ‘Q. Are we not men? A. We are Devo’ in full. Gerald Casale takes a breath at one point to remark how much fun the band are having with the chance to play some of their oldest tracks. Album tracks ‘Praying Hands’ and ‘Too Much Paranoias’ gain in precedence being played alongside classics ‘Mongoloid’ and ‘Gut Feeling’ as Mark Mothersbaugh leads the crowd in something that resembles a lewd gym video for the post-first heart attack men of a retiring age. As if it wasn’t enough that everyone is mimicking his every move he goes on to perform two magnificently clumsy stage dives, revelling in the fact that half of his costume has been ripped off before he got the chance to do it himself.
The album inevitably draws to a close with three lesser known tracks. Instead of fizzling out Devo ditch their synths and progress to almost hardcore stadium rock mode. The impressively clear sound system provides Bob 1, the member of the group who closer in resemblance to your meek uncle than your fat dad, a ball-busting guitar solo.
A brief encore disappoints only in the fact that Mothersbaugh declines to don the grotesque Booji mask featured in the brief video show that precluded Devo’s entry to the stage. But the ridiculous Devo attire remains poignant as the video intro to ‘Jocko Homo’ features men in hygienic face masks not dissimilar to those spotted increasingly around London today. There was no pig flu in Devo’s heyday but they had an eye to ridicule society when they saw it, and you’d think the current overreaction is something they’d grin about. Devo’s whole show combines rock, funk and the celebration of the ridiculous, and thank goodness they’re still revelling in it.
Words: Henry Greaves
Photo: Marc Shooter Sethi