Concert review: Devo at the 9:30 Club
Real encores are hard to come by these days.
Encores used to be spontaneous. Bands would come back out if the crowd refused to leave. But over the years, encores became just another part of the show. I've seen a lot of live music in the past seven years, but I had never seen a real encore -- until last night.
Irreverent new wave (at what point do they become old wave?) mainstays Devo plowed through their landmark debut "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" in its entirety last night at the 9:30 Club.
It was the first of two shows where the band plays an entire album from start to finish at the club (the second night, featuring "Freedom of Choice" is tonight). Last night's show was sold out, at $45 per ticket.
Devo's entire performance lasted less than an hour. That's being generous. There was only 45 minutes of live music. Before the band took the stage, they played the music videos for "Secret Agent Man" and "Jocko Homo." If that wasn't an effort to soak up time, it sure felt like it.
After a couple of encore songs, the band left the stage, the house lights and music came up and roadies started unplugging the gear. But the audience wasn't about to leave ...
"You guys are really persistent," guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh said.
You could tell they weren't planning on this second encore. Most of the guys on stage had changed into regular clothes. Apparently, someone in the audience had sent one of the band members a message on his iPhone, telling them to get back on the stage.
"I need everybody to swear an oath you never saw Devo on stage wearing street clothes," Gerald Casale said. "This is the first time. Ever."
Then they jumped into their bouncy 1981 single "Beautiful World." Lead singer Mark Motherbaugh emerged in full costume as Booji boy, a masked character who sings in falsetto. Near the end of the song, he reached into his pants and pulled out fistfuls of bouncy balls, which he hurled and bounced off the stage into the crowd. This second encore saved the night.
The rest of the show was about as tight as it could have been. Mark Mothersbaugh can still hit all the half-sung, half-urgently whooped notes, the band was firing on all cylinders. Sporting their trademark yellow jumpsuits, complete with the word Devo (as if we didn't know who they were already), they jumped up and down in unison on the album (and set) opener "Uncontrollable Urge."
Devo didn't spend much time bantering. They steamrolled from one frantic, jerky song to the next. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was as energetic and persistent as ever. The crowd was just as into the songs as the band was. Near me, a group of kids moshed. Almost everybody seemed to know the words.
The only noticeably absent was the band's biggest commercial hit, "Whip It." They'll play that one tonight. Their first encore, "Smart Patrol/Mr. D.N.A." and "Gates of Steel" was solid. But the second encore turned an otherwise good show into a great one.
(Photo by Andrew Boyle, courtesy of Devo's MySpace site)