September 27, 2021 | Concert Review by Jimmy Alvarez
It was early summer of 1987, at least to the best of my recollection it was. It was another Friday night and I was just getting home when a friend left a message with my roommate to give him a call back. It would be a night I would never forget. You see, I was asked to join a bunch of my friends at a new club in the City of Industry called Peppers. They had this new concert venue within the club. That night I got to see a band that would become legendary. That band was Devo.
Since then, Devo has done it all. They have had hits in multiple eras and they were on Billboard regularly. Their music has been heard everywhere, even in movies and TV. They have even been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They didn’t make it yet, but they will.
A few months ago, it was announced that Devo would be playing Riot Fest and a show in the Southland before they head on over to Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling. They were set to play the new YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park. Needless to say, I was excited to see this band from my youth as well as this new jewel of music venues.
I immediately knew it was going to be a special night. You see, as my wife Michelle and I parked our car, we started walking over toward Sofi when I heard someone calling out to me…. “Alvarez!”… “Alvarez!!!” Then, “Michelle!,” “Michelle!” I turned back and out of the parked car appeared John Easdale of Dramarama. I hadn’t seen John in some time, and you know, COVID and all.
It was great to see him, after exchanging pleasantries I asked the obvious question. What was he doing there… John simply answered with a smile, “I’m here to see Devo of course.”
As we walked in, I was taken by the size of the venue. We also heard the announcements over the intercom; it was cool and very FutureWorld’ish. As we entered the YouTube Theater I was impressed at the freshness and sleek design. As we made our way to the pit area, I looked up to the speakers in amazement as the pre-show music sounded great. I’m not talking about the kind of music, I am talking about the acoustics in that place, it was unreal how clear it was.
Eventually, the near capacity crowd rolled in. In anticipation of the legends taking the stage, a video program started the show. With a Weezer-like comedic flare, the video program made the crowd laugh. Then, the first time since 1986, I got to take a look at this band that was a blast from my past.
From the first note, the band electrified the crowd. DEVO 2021 had some familiar faces and some new ones. The set was simple, their equipment, and big screen behind them showing off vintage DEVO videos and skitz as well as a dazzling graphics program.
Immediately the sound of DEVO engulfed the theater… they sounded the same, but it was energized and different too… if that makes sense. As the lights dimmed Josh Freese took his seat behind the drum kit, yeah… that Josh Freese.
Freese was followed by not so new comer now Josh Hager (guitar & keys), then came a few familiar faces. Appearing next were Gerald Casale (bass), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar / vocals), and then out came Mark Mothersbaugh (lead vocals & keys). As Mark took the mic, the crowd lost their minds as they stood and cheered in appreciation of this band who has been part of the soundtrack of their lives.
What fascinated me was the crowd had fans of all ages and all nationalities. Everyone seemed to know every single word to every single song. For that time together, we were ALL teenagers once again.
The energy from the band and the crowd was volcanic. They came out to “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” then slid over into “Peek-A-Boo!” By then the YouTube Theater sound system and acoustics were kickin’ in. The sound was deafening but clear, weird combination I know, but it sounded great!
Honestly, I saw grown men and women bust in tears as they sang “That’s Good.” Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh let everyone know how good he was feeling when he ran around the stage with Cheerleader pom-poms having what looked like the time of his life.
Before you knew it Mark was throwing out Devo Dome Hats to the crowd as they segwayed into classics like “Girl U Want,” and “Whip It.” Then the video program took hold while the guys changed costumes into their vintage yellow industrial Devo-overalls.
As the reality of how great a show the crowd was witnessing, they took it up a notch when they heard the Stones cover, “Satisfaction.” Then when you thought the joint couldn’t get any louder, Devo pumped out an even more amplified version of their classic Johnny Rivers cover of “Secret Agent Man.”
What got me was seeing the younger crowd react to “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Mongoloid.” In all fairness, it may have been the first time some of the younger crowd heard these songs live. The youngsters at times seemed more animated than the older concertgoers when certain songs erupted over the You Tube Theater sound system.
Other than missing “Shout,” I relived my John Hughes movie-like night at Peppers at the YouTube Theatre. I don’t know if was that sound system or DEVO itself or a combination of both. Either way, the sound, sights and energy was epic.
As everyone left the venue, I overheard a number of concertgoers comment on how entertaining this show was. DEVO put on the show everyone had hoped for. And to the YouTube Theatre Management, what a great facility… I can’t wait to cover another show there, and neither can fans!