March 28th, 2011

Loopster Live: Devo at Warehouse Live

Devo, iconic masters of 80’s musical imagery, took main stage at Warehouse Live on Friday to a near-sell out crowd. Last year’s album Something for Everybody ended a studio album drought of 20 years, but it was to be expected that the performance would be heavily nostalgic.

The quintet still surprised the audience. With a mix of some recent songs, the band played to their strengths: a physical choreography that stayed true to the band’s nerd roots, a video wall that brought reinforcing imagery and the band’s ironic humor clearly intact.

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The music was strong, at times a little bit slower in tempo than I remember the albums being, but nothing that took away from the performance. The vocals suffered a bit at moments, but the crowd often sang along, providing backing and energy support.

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It would be very easy to have just been caught up in the visuals – the costume changes, the masks, the trademark flower pot hats – but the most interesting revelation of the live performance was how so many songs had been updated or had elements highlighted. Several times throughout the evening, songs that I thought I knew so well demonstrated how their influence extended well beyond their chart success. An emphasized bass line in one recalled some techno, another showed glam rock influences; the live versions managed to please those looking for the hits as well as fans looking for a Devo-worthy performance.

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In short, it was fun evening. A surprisingly broad age range, some kids with parents, but the front rows were dominated by 17-28 yr olds. Maybe they were the only ones willing to wait patiently, but many knew the lyrics and joined the sing along by the bulk of the crowd that was twice their age.

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Opener, The Octopus Project – who played at Free Press Summer Fest 2009 – deserves acknowledgment for creating an interesting indie-techno sound that avoided becoming monotonous. Austin-based, the band caught Devo’s attention at 2010’s MoogFest. I look forward to their next stop in Houston and hope their unique-for-Austin sound finds enough support that they stay committed to it.

Additional photos from Devo at Warehouse Live found at: www.flennerfoto.com

— Alexander

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