I caught Devo at the Manchester Apollo on June 20th on their first European tour in fifteen years. It was a much-anticipated tour for UK Spuds (fans of Devo) and the atmosphere in the Apollo reflected this. Several fully grown men, dressed in replica Devo boiler suits and "energy dome" plastic hats, couldn't contain their excitement, and caused ripples of laughter by leaping in the aisles and leading chants. They sat down and behaved themselves when the support act, the will-be-iconic, new-punk UK band Scanners, came on. Further back in the atmospheric, gloomy grandeur-gone-off of the Apollo was a wide range of Spuds: middle-aged ex-punks, — funny how you can just tell -- some with teenage grandchildren or children in tow, others with friends. There was also a healthy contingent of teenagers and twenty-something student types attending by their own volition.
The coolest audience member in my opinion had to be nine-year-old Amie, who had been brought by her parents Dan and Sue, whom I chatted with as we waited. I can't think of a better or more memorable way to introduce a child to live music. She didn't speak a word to her parents the whole way through, but stood mesmerised on her chair as the familiar songs were performed live with incredible energy and showmanship.
From the opening projection, on a characteristically low-tech screen, of the "Devo Corporate Anthem," and "In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution," through to Mark Mothersbaugh's tongue-in-cheek arrival with the aid of a zimmer frame, it was clear that this was to be a gig full of humour but also of anti-authoritarian sentiment. "Secret Agent Man" was met with a rapturous response, as was the hit "Whip it." "Are We Not Men?" led to the audience responding with "We Are Devo" at screaming pitch, punching the air. Booji Boy - a gigantic foetal child, "as old as the
mountains but as yet unborn" - was embodied by Mark Mothersbaugh, who sang "Beautiful World" in a creepy, surreal falsetto, concluding a gig that was energizing, rebellious, angry and delightful all at once.