Directed by Keirda Bahruth
Starring: Marth Mothersbaugh, Gerald V. Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh, Josh Freese
“Now whip it/ into shape/ shape it up/ get straight/ go forward/ move ahead/ try to detect it/ It’s not too late/ To whip it/ Whip it good (buh nuh nuh nuh nuuuh, boom chhh, boom chhh). Any child of the 80’s knows those lyrics and the crazy guys that wrote them. I’m talking about the synth-pop, post-punk, and just weird guys of DEVO. But before they had their iconic hit that sky rocketed them into synthe-sizer glory, they were a garage band out of Akron, OH. In this film, we see their pre-fame songs that have very rarely been performed… until now.
Hard Core DEVO, Live! is a cross between a documentary and a taped concert, a docu-concert, if you will. I’m sure that the genre has been named already, but I’m calling it a docu-concert.
We start with some interviews from the band talking about the beginnings of DE-VO, and finally I found out where the name DEVO originated. When they formed in the 1970’s, they kept reading about how the world was evolving, but they actu-ally felt that the world was going through a state of de-evolution, hence the name DEVO.
Then, the concert starts. We start with a little sketch, letting the audience know that it is almost 40 years ago in a basement in Akron, OH. The boys start to weave their tale of dissatisfaction with the de-evolution of the world, but for the first 30 minutes, they just sit and play. I seriously thought that they were going to sit and play for the whole concert and was a little miffed. If Paul McCartney can perform his little Liverpudlian butt off for 3 hours and 45 minutes without one break, the fellas of DEVO can certainly do the same!
But then, in a theatrical turn for the crazy, the crew gets their famous coveralls “in the mail.” They all put them on, and that is when the real show starts. From that moment on, the DEVO that we know and love comes out to play. And damn… do they play! These guys never meant for any early of these songs to be com-mercially successful; they just wanted to make different music that said some-thing poignant.
Their presentation of these songs gets more and more theatrical and weirder and weirder. Eventually, they all don those horribly creepy see-through masks, and Mark, the lead singer and synth player, dons a pink onesie and an even creepier clown-like masks, while he sits in a chair and sings. But all crazy theatrics aside, these guys ROCK HARD! So much so, that a younger member of the audience jumps up on stage and crowd dives, much to the surprise of the band.
I’m not gonna lie, but you’re not going to remember ANY of these songs after-wards, except for their cover of “Satisfaction,” which is incredible. But these songs aren’t meant to be ear worms. These songs were intended to stir some-thing inside of you, whether it be disgust, rage, laughter, or just plain confusion. They said in one interview that sometimes they were paid to end their set early more times than not in their early days.
Overall, a cool docu-concert, but I wish that there had been more interviews. I understand that this is a film where I will never hear them play “Whip It,” and I’m OK with that. However, I would have really appreciated more behind the scenes and less on stage action.
The video is really quite spectacular. The picture is crystal clear and incredibly vibrant. I love the camera work during the concert. Towards the end, you get up onstage with the boys and look out into the arena. It’s quite mystifying. Everyone in the audience is loosing their minds over these weird songs, and you can feel the energy vibrate through your screen.
Fantastical audio. My favorite part of their music is watching Mark work his magic on the synthesizer. Being a child of the 80’s and a synth musician myself, I LOVE seeing someone use a synthesizer for everything that it’s worth. I watched Mark use an old school 70’s synth to make sounds that I didn’t think could be made unless you had a computer console with you. I’m not going to buy the music from the Hardcore DEVO days, but it is really interesting to hear the origins of synth-pop and post-punk in such great audio definition.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is good. It’s a standard Blu-Ray casing, with the artwork on both sides… oh, the artwork. Just as the show is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, so is the artwork. On the cover is the title, and one of the band members in a half mask, with something green and disgusting coming out of his mouth. But then again, after watch-ing this movie, I would be disappointed if I saw anything less! You get some of the best stills from the show on the back cover along with a set list and a short synopsis. Inside is a little booklet of more stills from the show, which is a nice added bonus. Bonus fea-tures are really great, too. You can watch a concert only version, which would be the most fun thing ever if you were under the influence. Also included is an alternate open-ing to the film and “Building Satisfaction Guitar.” Although these extras are wonderful, I wish they had included deleted interview scenes. I’m sure they had hours of footage that was cut, and I would have really appreciated a little more insight into the band.
Overall (Not an Average)
What a strange film! Seriously, it took me a while to get to watching this movie because I didn’t want to watch it and have trippy dreams. And guess who had dreams about men in masks wearing pink onesies last night? This girl. But that is what the gentlemen of DEVO want. They never set out to make perfect pop music to lull you into a sense of false security. No, set they out to make music that they wanted to make. Music that said something different. And different they are. This docu-concert is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re a synth-pop lover looking to dream trippy tonight, Hardcore DEVO, Live! is the film for you!