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Devo celebrate Mark Mothersbaugh's 72nd birthday with a greatest-hits set to enthusiastic crowd in NYC

The legendary New Wave pioneers played their greatest hits to avid fans on a beautiful night at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in Manhattan on Wednesday, May 18th.
Devo members Mark Mothersbaugh, left, vocals, keyboards, and Bob Mothersbaugh guitar, vocals, performing live in May 2022. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Devo members Mark Mothersbaugh, left, vocals, keyboards, and Bob Mothersbaugh guitar, vocals, performing live in May 2022. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

By John Curley

Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh celebrated his 72nd birthday on Wednesday, May 18th in style by performing an outdoor show with the band on a perfect night in New York City at the venue The Rooftop at Pier 17, which offers a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition to Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals, keyboards and guitar), Devo is comprised of Mark’s brother, Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar and vocals), Gerald Casale (bass, vocals and bass synthesizer), Josh Freese (drums) and Josh Hager (guitar and keyboards). They performed an 80-minute greatest-hits set in front of an enthusiastic crowd in which many were wearing the red plastic Devo “energy domes” atop their heads. Several fans took it a step further and attended the show clad in full yellow Devo jumpsuits like those worn by the band onstage.

The evening’s festivities began with a 30-minute solo set by the actor and singer-songwriter Creed Bratton. In addition to being a cast member of the NBC-TV sitcom The Office, Bratton was also a member of the 1960s band The Grass Roots. His set consisted of humorous, quirky songs. In between songs, he told stories. At one point, he jokingly teased a reunion of The Office that isn’t going to happen. He closed his set with “All The Faces,” his song that he sang on the series finale of The Office.

Following an interval of about 20 minutes, an archive spoof film from the early 1980s in which a record-company executive harangues Devo for not being more commercial played on the large screen behind the band’s gear on the stage. When the film finished, a more recent film featuring the actor who portrayed the record-company exec was screened in which he chided the band for performing “for the converted.” The five members of Devo then walked onstage to huge cheers from the crowd and launched into an energetic version of “Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)” that features the lyrics “Don’t tase me, bro!” and had video images playing on the screen behind the band. The videos on the screen were used throughout the concert to great effect. They went right into a bouncy version of “Peek-a-Boo” that had the crowd cheering as well as singing along to the song. And the crowd roared for the excellent, driving version of “Going Under.”

The tight performance of “That’s Good” featured a terrific lead vocal from Mark Mothersbaugh and elicited a big reaction from the crowd. Devo then upped the ante with a fantastic, pounding take on “Girl U Want,’ to which the crowd sang along at the top of their voices. “Whip It,” probably their best-known song, received an outstanding performance led by Mark Mothersbaugh’s powerful lead vocal.

The band left the stage briefly at his point for a costume change as a faux science film about the Milky Way played on the onstage screen. When they returned, they were decked out in their classic yellow jumpsuits with “DEVO” in black letters running down the front. They then performed their entertaining, off-kilter cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and followed that with a cover of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s “Secret Agent Man.”

The boundless enthusiasm of the New York City audience seemed to light a fire under the band, and they proceeded to deliver an awesome and quite powerful version of “Uncontrollable Urge.” The band were on fire, and the crowd roared with approval. It was one of the highlights of the show. They followed that with an outstanding take on “Mongoloid” that was powered by Freese’s stellar drumming. When the song ended, Mark Mothersbaugh asked the crowd if they thought that de-evolution was real. He then spoke a bit about the world situation and had some choice words about the U.S. Supreme Court. Listening to what Mothersbaugh was saying really brought it home that many of Devo’s classic songs, written and released some four decades ago, are as relevant today as they were when they were new.

Devo then posed the question “Are We Not Men?” as part of their killer performance of “Jocko Homo.” They rocked out on “Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA” as the crowd roared. A terrific, pounding, rocking performance of “Gates of Steel” followed.

The band then left the stage briefly as a vintage film of Devo standing at attention played on the stage’s screen. When they returned, they performed an incendiary version of “Freedom of Choice,” probably the best example of a Devo song that sounds like it could have been written two weeks ago. The crowd ate it up. After the song, Casale said, “Freedom of choice: you better use it or you’re gonna lose it. It’s going away fast!”

A heavy, rocking version of “Gut Feeling / Slap Your Mammy” was the penultimate song of the evening, and it received a huge reaction from the crowd. It was announced from the stage that it was “Booji Boy’s birthday” as Mark Mothersbaugh walked back onstage dressed as the character. As the band began playing the final song of the evening, “It’s A Beautiful World,” Mothersbaugh/Booji Boy began throwing things to the crowd. He then sang the song’s second verse in a high-pitched, synthesized vocal that had a sucking helium effect. In the song’s midsection, Mothersbaugh/Booji Boy did a spoken-word bit in which he discussed some of Devo’s past performances in New York City, including their first show in the Big Apple in 1977. When he finished, the song kicked back in for a rocking conclusion after which the band took their bows and left the stage to an enormous ovation.

How are Devo not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? They should have been elected and inducted years ago. Anyone that witnessed their stellar show at The Rooftop at Pier 17 will surely tell you that they deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Devo’s upcoming events and live performances can be found at http://www.clubdevo.com/devo-events/.

On Monday, May 16th, Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale gave an interesting and entertaining interview to New York City radio station WNYC. The interview runs about 19 minutes and can be heard at https://www.wnyc.org/story/new-wave-band-devo-pier-17-concert-preview/.

Devo’s setlist was as follows:
Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)
Peek-a-Boo
Going Under
That’s Good
Girl U Want
Whip It
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (cover of Rolling Stones song)
Secret Agent Man (cover of song by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri)
Uncontrollable Urge
Mongoloid
Jocko Homo
Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA
Gates of Steel
Freedom of Choice
Gut Feeling / Slap Yer Mammy
It's A Beautiful World 

  

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