It’s strange watching younger folks getting into things you discovered decades ago. At the same time, it’s rewarding to know that at least some of the things you held dear to your heart can be just as inspiring as when you were young.
Such is the case for Devo, a band that was incredibly vital to rock music, yet often overlooked because of their image, or more importantly, how their image was received.
The irony is how Devo can be considered a one trick pony by some while being anything but that in reality. As they amped up their visuals, they left their political bent behind which ended up killing any hint of dangerous or subversive behavior.
Because Devo actually started out a bit dangerous and they carried just as much punk ethos as anyone else, but they were just too damn smart for people to believe them.
There is video evidence of this, and the amazing thing is how well it’s documented just at the point where the band found commercial success. Yes, even at the time Devo scored their biggest hit, “Whip It,” they could still lay down a very aggressive and wildly entertaining show complete with costume changes, weird David Lynchian moments, and tight arrangements that are on par with all of their peers, even the ones that may get a critical nod before them.
Devo Live 1980 catches the Spudboys during the Freedom of Choice tour in 1980 in what appears to be a large club filled with admirers. It’s hard to tell, as the video is obviously not something that was documented for commercial release, more probable is that this was just an in-house closed circuit job.
Not that it matters to you; it’s just that there is very little crowd material, which means that every lens is focused on the band as they hit on just about every single highpoint of their first three albums.
The video image is decent but not professional and the sound quality is cut from a mono source, but none of this takes away from the performance that is top notch. I’m guessing that this was a typical show from that tour, and if that’s the case, these guys were a very impressive band. If you’re a fan of Talking Heads Stop Making Sense film, then you should be able to see how Mark Mothersbaugh’s reach went as far as New York City’s David Byrne. It’s like a noisy run through of that critical darling.
The video features Booji Boy turning into a meaty disaster and the bonus features show Devo’s religious alter egos Dove playing some more spiritual spud material.
Live 1980 is a perfect place to get familiar with how good Devo could be left to their own devices and it’s the perfect place for fans to hold as a proud document of a frequently overlooked live juggernaut.