Devo @ O2 Academy, Edinburgh, 17 Aug

Dedicated Devo fans turn out in droves to say farewell to the iconic band, who still genuinely sound spectacular, on their 50th anniversary tour

Live Review by Logan Walker | 18 Aug 2023
  • Devo

Devo are a band that has always sought to defy expectations, and unsurprisingly on this 50th anniversary tour, they still do so. Doors at the venue formerly known as the Corn Exchange open at 7pm, and with no support act, many in the audience expect the new-wave pioneers to walk out at 8pm. It's 8.25pm, and Devo are yet to appear. The crowd grow restless, and with those in attendance having paid anywhere between £40 to £75 for the privilege, some frustration is understandable.

When Devo do saunter through the smoke just after 8:30pm, all those frustrations are forgotten. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh runs out to the front of the stage with the energy of someone half his age and transports the O2 Academy back in time a few decades. Opening track Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man) shakes the cobwebs loose and it isn’t long before fans (many of whom are decked out in yellow jumpsuits and red dome hats) find themselves in the thrall of the Ohio art rockers.

Crowd interaction is kept to an absolute minimum, and apart from bassist and co-lead singer Gerald Casale’s weird-and-wonderful song introductions, Devo run through their setlist with no pauses and military precision. It is easy to forget that these men are septuagenarians, such is the energy and enthusiasm they pour into this performance. 

Things really kick into high gear when the band play Girl U Want, and follow it up with signature tune Whip It. The 80s anthem provokes scenes of delirium in the packed hall and brushes away any lingering doubts that Devo may be an act past their sell-by date. Devo can still go, and not only can they still go, but they also sound genuinely spectacular.

The band disappear from stage briefly to get changed into their trademark yellow jumpsuits, and the middle section of the set is where their musicianship really shines through. It is easy to get caught up in the image that Devo have cultivated for themselves, with their stilted and robotic movements on stage, surreal music videos and satirical faux-corporate posing, but when they play songs like Uncontrollable Urge and Jocko Homo, it shows them for what they really are – a supremely talented and extremely well-oiled rock band, who deserve more recognition for their influence.

Another short interlude allows a final outfit change of the evening, and Devo launch into the encore with Freedom of Choice, followed up by Gut Feeling. If this is to be their last-ever appearance on Scottish shores, as we've been lead to believe, they're going out in style. Beautiful World serves as a poignant closer, and there is a real sense of emotion in the crowd as many Devo devotees realise this is goodbye. The band wrap up and soak in the adulation for all of 30 seconds before riding off into the Edinburgh sunset.

The lights go up, and while there is a little confusion among the audience, with some appearing to be expecting a few more songs and a longer set (Devo play for approximately 75 minutes) the majority wander off misty-eyed and grateful, having bid farewell to their heroes.