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Devo: Live

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Album Review

Much has changed musically in the last quarter of a century, so much so that Devo now sounds quite normal. Back in 1980 (and before), they were truly unique. Of course, there were much more experimental units out there, Suicide springs to mind, but none that pushed so hard up against the rough edges of mass-market viability. There again, the group came ready packaged, with not just a philosophy, but a whole skewered world view, a theme song ("Jocko Homo"), a corporate anthem, and a look so alien that even Kraftwerk's infamous mannequins seemed less other-worldly than Akron's oddest. And all this in a time before MTV, when substance still trumped style. But Devo had plenty of substance, and an enthralling, off-the-wall stage show, with moves as precisely choreographed as a Motown act, assuming Detroit had been over-run by Alpha Centurians. This DVD, Devo: Live in 1980, provides ample proof of all that. Filmed in August, 1980, at the Petaluma, CA's Phoenix Theater, Devo were on the verge of the big time, readying the "Whip It" single to lash its way up the chart. With a 75-minute, 20-song set, the band run through with an obvious relish virtually all the highlights of their three-album canon. The footage has withstood the passing of time, a bit blurry for the long shots, but crisp in the close-ups; the sound and mix are excellent, easily capturing the group's dramatic music in all its glory. Live, Devo were always a revelation, but this gig took them to new heights, and the entire set is seeped in an excitement that bursts straight off the screen. Bonus footage includes an early trailer, as well as two numbers the group performed under the moniker Dove — The Band of Love at the Minneapolis M80 Concert held that same year. A groundbreaking band, seen here at the height of their break-through.


Formed: 1972 in Akron, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of new wave's most innovative and (for a time) successful bands, Devo was also perhaps one of its most misunderstood. Formed in Akron, Ohio, in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo took its name 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. Their music echoed this view of society as rigid, repressive, and mechanical, with...
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