ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER





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Sunday, October 29, 2006
Devo caps a night of retro fun
Review: The group’s jerky music and high concept visuals still resound at show devoted to ’80s nostalgia.
By ROBERT KINSLER
Special to the Register

One of the constants of modern rock has been the idea it’s best to look ahead and change if you want to stay relevant.

But on occasion, a look in the rear view mirror works well, too.

Headlining on a four-act bill at the Grove of Anaheim on Friday night, Devo thrilled the near-capacity audience with an 85-minute set of rock that seemed at odds with the band’s deceptively simple style. The so-called “spud boys” who emerged out of Akron, Ohio in the 1970s with a unique blend of robot rock somehow continue to get it right.

Although it has been more than 30 years since then-Kent State art students Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale put their concept of “de-evolution” into musical motion, the group’s show and songs continue to resound today. It somehow defied logic that Devo’s Anaheim set list was centered mostly on the band’s best-known material and was delivered while the band members wore their famous matching attire (including those funny little red hats).

“Whip It,” “Girl U Want,” “Freedom of Choice” and “Mongoloid” boasted that manic, jerky style that keeps Devo decidedly at odds with purveyors of pop, punk and rock.

Devo’s covers of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Secret Agent Man” also blended well across quintet’s 18-song set.

“Gates of Steel” and the night-ending “Beautiful World” came off surprisingly affecting, while “Peek-A-Boo” and “Uncontrollable Urge” recalled Oingo Boingo’s wonderfully frantic approach.

While A Flock of Seagulls came armed with a handful of early ‘80s hits, singer-keyboardist Mike Score (the only remaining original member of the Liverpool, England-spawned outfit) and company were dealt a bad hand by the mix of their set. With the bass thundering across every inch of the hall, it was difficult to hear Score’s vocals and the distinctive keyboard and guitar parts that make “I Ran,” “Space Age Love Song” and the touching “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” such guilty pleasures.

A Flock of Seagulls actually scored its strongest shots with a wistful “The More You Live, the More You Love” and later with a performance of the driving “Telecommunication.”

When in Rome scored one hit in the 1980s, “The Promise.” Hearing that song performed by the quartet live at the Grove brought to mind a dozen or so better songs by Alphaville, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Erasure. And without an effective stage personality, the group and the six songs they played simply made a case to help them find their way back to obscurity.

The night’s opener Bow Wow Wow played a vigorous set of high energy material such as “I Want Candy,” “Go Wildin the Country” and “Do You Wanna Hold Me?” that entertained thanks to energetic singer Annabella Lwin’s still-strong voice.