Devo Complete Their '50 years of De-Evolution' Farewell Tour In Melbourne -
Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo at the Palais Theatre Melbourne 6 December 2023 photo by Lucas Packett

Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo at the Palais Theatre Melbourne 6 December 2023 photo by Lucas Packett

Devo Complete Their ’50 years of De-Evolution’ Farewell Tour In Melbourne

by Paul Cashmere on December 7, 2023

in News

Devo may or may not have played their last show ever in Melbourne. The show on 6 December, 2023 at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda was the last date of the ’50 Years of De-Evolution’ world tour. If this really was their last show ever 50 years certainly ended with little fanfare.

There were plenty of ‘bang for the buck’ moments regardless and all wrapped up in a condensed one hour and twenty-minute performance including encore, video interludes and costume changes. The albums of ’84, ’88 and ’90 were ignored. With the exception of the most recent song ‘Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)’ (from 2010’s ‘Something for Everybody’) at the start of the show, everything else was from those first five (and iconic to fans) albums. That would have been a good thing for most fans in the room. For longtime Devo fans ’50 Years of De-Evolution’ was the concentrated showbag.

Devo co-founders Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Mothersbaugh are each equal and integral parts to the sound. All are now in their 70s, Gerald Casale the oldest at 75. You couldn’t tell. The show had the energy of bands half their age. The story of a group of students who met at Kent State university and created this band because of the Kent State massacre on May 4, 1970, must be encouraging to anyone young with an idea today.

The show starts with video of fictional record company mogul Rod Rooter from 1980 talking about how he will market the band and cuts to now when he talks about how they didn’t listen. “They could have been playing big stadiums, like Kid Rock. But no, they wouldn’t play ball with yours truly and now they’re about as popular as the Delta variant”, he says. It was Art imitating real life for Devo who were once wooed by Richard Branson.

Part one of the show is top heavy of the three biggest albums. Part two goes back to the first two records. The 1978 debut ‘Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo’ failed to have much impact when it was initially released. Its appropriate that fans “de-evolved” back from the commercial successes of the 80s ‘Freedom of Choice’ (1980) and ‘New Traditionalist’ (1981) to discover the two lost 70s albums and match the DNA of the hits with the origins. That first album came out around the time The Stones released ‘Some Girls’. On the first Devo album, Devo were deconstructing The Stones ‘Satisfaction’ while the Stones were reconstructing themselves with ‘Miss You’. With thanks to radio station 2JJ in Sydney at the time ‘Devo’s Stones cover even graced the bottom end of the Top 100 in Australia.

1980 was a big year for Devo in Australia. It was obvious from the audience that this was the album they all had. At the time Countdown was huge, commercial FM had just begun and ‘Whip It’ was all over the radio. Here we are 43 years down the road and ‘Whip It’, ‘Girl U Want’ and ‘Freedom of Choice’ still pack the punch live.

1981’s ‘New Traditionists’ had its highest chart peak in Australia. That was a number three album in the day. Imagine that, Devo were once a “pop band” (well in the chart sense of the word). ‘Beautiful World’ was a big hit in Australia, reaching number 14. It was a fitting choice to end the show.

Devo’s chart impact was mostly over the two years of 1980 and 1981. There were only four Devo albums between 1984 and 2010 and only one song ‘Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)’ from 2010 represented anything after 1982. That didn’t matter. The audience was there for nostalgia.

The Rod Rooter video at the start, the Carl Sagan video in the middle and Devo Corporate Anthem video at the end bought time for the costume changes. The energy dome hats were there for ‘Girl U Want’, the yellow jumpsuits were there for the Are We Not Men part, the D E V O shirts towards the end. Just how KISS have to look like KISS to sound like KISS, Devo wouldn’t be the same without the costumes.

’50 Years of De-Evolution’ does summarise the career. The guys do insist this is the last tour. It was the last night of the world tour. Could it be that Devo ended in Melbourne, Australia?

Devo setlist, 6 December 2023, Palais Theatre, St Kilda

Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man) (from Something For Everybody, 2010)
Peek-A-Boo! (from Oh No It’s Devo, 1982)
Going Under (from New Traditionalists, 1981)
That’s Good (from Oh No It’s Devo, 1982)
Girl U Want (from Freedom of Choice, 1980)
Whip It (from Freedom of Choice, 1980)
Planet Earth (from Freedom of Choice, 1980)

Carl Sagan Video

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones cover) (from Q. Are We Not Me? A. We Are Devo, 1978)
Secret Agent Man (P.F. Sloan cover) (from Duty Now for the Future, 1979)
Uncontrollable Urge (from Q. Are We Not Me? A. We Are Devo, 1978)
Mongoloid (from Q. Are We Not Me? A. We Are Devo, 1978)
Jocko Homo (from Q. Are We Not Me? A. We Are Devo, 1978)
Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA (from Duty Now for the Future, 1979)
Gates of Steel (from Freedom of Choice, 1980)

DEVO Corporate Anthem (from Duty Now for the Future, 1979)

Freedom of Choice (from Freedom of Choice, 1980)
Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy) (from Q. Are We Not Me? A. We Are Devo, 1978)
Beautiful World (from New Traditionalists, 1981)

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