Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Devo, Freedom of Choice

I’ve always been wary of this whole “bands reliving their former glory by hitting the stage again 20 years later” fad, because I feel like I saw all the people I wanted to then, and I don’t need to see them again now, when they could potentially destroy my fond, nostalgic memories of some awesome show I saw when I was 16 and totally in the moment.

However, when Devo’s Freedom of Choice album came out in 1980, I was only 9 – just a wee bit too young to have seen them live, and since TIG was lucky enough to be able to attend both shows (ChrisB was at Sunday night’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo!)  I thought it would be fun to see them play FoC in its entirety now. Thankfully, I was right.

Look, there’s no denying that the original members of Devo ARE old. But god bless ‘em, those guys still put on one hellova rockin’ show, full of spectacularly defining 80s synth-pop “new wave” sound, lots of signature choreography, and of course, some amazing keys and guitars.

The show started with a few well-worn videos: the purple-accented, screaming-fan-filled “Girl U Want” (my favorite Devo song), the weird Western-themed-stripper-fantasy “Whip It” and the alien-masked, chocolate donut-eating trippy “Freedom of Choice”. All welcome blasts from the past (hey guys, MTV played videos! All day! All the time!), although I did hear one person voice concern that they had paid $40 to see some crappy videos.

After the vids, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale, and Bob Casale joined by drummer Josh Freese (taking the place of member Alan Meyers, who played on both Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo! and Freedom of Choice) entered the stage in a version of their classic matching jumpsuits: khaki with a red belt and horizontal stripe, and of course, their recognizable energy dome hats – which half the audience had on too. 

Fan anticipation was adrenaline-charged, and by the time their pet “Spud” ran across the stage with the first Track 1 sign, the fans were already out of their seats preparing to dance and shout out lyrics. And dance they did, all the way through Freedom of Choice’s 12 tracks, and right on through the encore – a rarity for Seattle audiences (behold: the power of the 80s!).  Watching the enthusiasm of the crowd, especially when Mark yelled; “Who knows what track 3 is?” (the iconic “Whip It”), took me back to a time when I was too young to care about anything but having fun.

They definitely proved they can still move a crowd and perform their songs in beloved, nostalgic clarity. In short: Devo rocked it…and managed to change my mind a bit about seeing bands now that I loved in my teens. Viva le Devo!

Set list:
Girl U Want
It’s Not Right
Whip It
Ton o’Luv
Freedom of Choice
Gates of Steel
Cold War
Don’t You Know
That’s Pep
Mr. B’s Ballroom
Planet Earth

Be Stiff (from the Be Stiff EP)
Beautiful World (from New Traditionalists)

{Writer’s note: I left before Beautiful World was over because I was feelin’ not-so-hot, so I confess: I have no idea if they played more after those 2 songs…}