The spuds from Ohio (Akron, specifically) never stopped pushing their theory of de-evolution on the masses, and though it’s been years since DEVO was in the greater public’s collective consciousness (was there ever a more successful subversive penetration of the mainstream than “Whip It”?), they played a rare Boston show (first in roughly twenty years, according to leader MARK MOTHERSBAUGH’s stage proclamation) to a wildly varied audience. Kids were in tow, red energy domes were perched atop craniums, tyvek radiation suits were donned, and even an official-looking general was at attention in the front row, complete with military garb and an attaché case likely filled with dark secrets of mankind. The populace of Boston was ready for Booji Boy.
Following a pastiche of video footage, compiled from various projects over the years, the men in yellow (suits) and red (energy domes) marched out to the strains of “We’re All Devo!” and kicked the night off with the throbbing analog synth beats of “That’s Good,” with Mark raising an imaginary rifle to eye some target in the sky, and blasting it out in syncopation with the song. With the brothers Casale manning guitar and keyboards, and Mark’s brother (Bob I) also on guitar, they were forcefully propelled by the driving beats of much in-demand session drummer JOSH FREESE, who has also played live with NINE INCH NAILS, A PERFECT CIRCLE. Josh has been playing live with the spuds since ‘95 and was a force. The quavering vocals of Mark on “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA” perfectly matched the vintage analog squiggles of the ancient synths they were using. Their delightfully mutated covers of “Secret Agent Man” and “Satisfaction” still sounded as fresh as ever, and the pile drivers of “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Gates of Steel,” and especially “Gut Feeling” were remarkably forceful. Draped in a choir gown and requisite rubber mask, Mark appeared as Booji Boy (the ‘j’ is pronounced as a hard ‘g’) for the set closer “Beautiful World,” slightly marred by his decision to sing the entire song in falsetto; bam bam bam…75 minutes and no encore- now that’s punk rock! Odds are good that most people would just shrug off Devo as being outdated bouncy synthpop mongers with weird costumes, but they couldn’t be more wrong. This was the night the nerds won.
TOM TOM CLUB’s most famous alums include ex-*TALKING HEADS* rhythm section CHRIS FRANTZ (drums) and TINA WEYMOUTH (bass, vocals) but instead of the caffeine-ridden jitters of DAVID BYRNE laying out the plans, there’s a gentle, afro-caribbean lilt to the rhythms and easy-going nature of the music. The music is also infused with the fresh-faced take on early NYC hip-hop, when the possibilities were endless and didn’t end in a dead-end of gold chains and misogynistic lyrics; check out “Wordy Rappinghood” for more info on this particular trait. Of course the big hit “Genius of Love” was played, and got the crowd out of their seats and swaying to and fro like it was 1981 again, with Tina trading vocals with her sister Laura. A couple of rousing covers (a not-so surprising “Take Me To The River,” and a shout-out from Tina to her parents via “You Sexy Thing,” underscoring what’s kept their 63 years of marriage going. Fun stuff.
as always, more photos of the bands are available at my site