Devo were probably one of the most influential artists of the '80s. Not that you would know it of course (they very rarely get mentioned these days), but these pioneers of New Wave can be found in much of today's music. When you consider that the name Devo is shorthand for their idea of De-Evolution, it's hard to not to concede that the band might have had a point.
At times it would appear that the world is regressing. Indeed as the introduction to this film points out, the current presidency of George W Bush has many Americans looking back to the Reagan era with rose tinted spectacles. During the '80s the idea that something worse than Reagan was possible was frequently deemed "crazy talk".
This DVD was filmed during Devo's Freedom of Choice tour, a few months before their major hit (Whip It - the promo for which feature the band in their trademark white boiler suits and flowerpot hats) was released and drove them into mainstream consciousness for an all too brief period of time. Playing before a packed house, this film shows Devo as an awesome prospect live. More interestingly, it's a performance that serves as a perfect document of the 1980s. At times the keyboards seem overbearing, the drums take on a terrible inhuman quality, and everyone seems to be moving robotically. At one time, these qualities were all key signifiers in the music of the '80s.
Whether or not you enjoyed the '80s might well go a long way in influencing your opinion on this DVD. On the one hand, this is a fantastic collection of Devo's material encompassing their three main releases at that point: a solid 'best of' if you will. On the other hand, you may find yourself free-associating: Why am I thinking about Max Headroom? Wasn't Thatcher evil? Why did I go and see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (the one with the ear slug things?), Oh God, I used to dance like a robot, Who did that song Workin' In A Coalmine?? Ah, thank god we're back to Devo.
The chances are that if you are already a Devo fan, you will love this DVD. However, if you're new to the band, it may well leave you slightly mystified. Not that there is anything wrong with the performance - lit from behind by great slabs of white light, and dressed like Bill and Ben if they worked at a nuclear plant, Devo are on top of their game. The likes of Girl U Want, Jocko Homo and Whip It all get a tight, yet frantically twitchy airing, whilst their wonderfully twisted cover of the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction almost manages to steal the show.
The only problem with the film is the picture quality, which at times is almost unbearable. With a band as visual as Devo were, this is something of a disappointment. However, the 5.1 sound mix of the show makes up for this, as does the inclusion of an audio only track of the show.
Devo Live 1980 is an essential for any Devo fan. If you're new to the band it is still not a bad place to start, although you should probably check out the fantastic collection Pioneers Who Got Scalped. Then you will be able to confidently answer the following question: Are we not men?