SXSW showcase reviews

Live Shots
Photo by John Anderson


Austin Music Hall, March 20

Given Devo's emblematic role in shaping contemporary 1980s nostalgia, the question was whether the Akron, Ohio-bred quintet would scare up a 21st century version of Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party." A competent running of the hits would've sent the crowd home happy, but the group performed as if it were still trying to seal the deal. As the house lights dimmed shortly after midnight, Devo opened with "Don't Shoot, I'm a Man" from its forthcoming (and still untitled) first new album in nearly two decades. Video made this and two other new songs, "Fresh" and "What We Do," seem more familiar than they had a right to be. "Peek-a-Boo!" was accompanied by scenes of doll sodomy that were too hot for MTV circa 1982, while "That's Good" recalled Muffy Tepperman's bat mitzvah on Square Pegs. After "Whip It" midset, Devo focused on its first two LPs, coupling its deconstructed version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with "Secret Agent Man" and following "Uncontrollable Urge" with fan-pleasing deeper cuts like "Mongoloid" and "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA." Finally, Mark Mothersbaugh appeared in full Booji Boy attire to squeal his way through "Beautiful World," solidifying the notion that Devo's joke-theory of humanity in reverse has aged frighteningly well.

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