Blondie and Devo brought their "Whip It To Shreds Tour" to Austin on Tuesday night for a show at Stubb's. Review by Neil Ferguson. Photos by Waytao Shing.
Judging by the music, I could have sworn I stepped in to a time machine to the eighties, but when I looked around the sold out crowd at Stubb’s I was immediately brought back to the present. The crowd may have been visibly older and less spunky than they were when the music was popular and new, but all of them were just as pumped as they were back then to see Devo and Blondie in the same night.
Devo seem to have more of a cult following than Blondie, and the guys are definitely getting up there in years, but they still know how to slay a crowd. Shredding tubular riffs and radical groves, Devo tore through one hit after another. Adorned with the band’s trademark energy domes, the spuds (Devo speak for fan) rocked right along with the music, throwing down some of the most hilariously awesome dance moves this writer has ever seen. Songs like “Girl U Want,” “Satisfaction,” “Are We Not Men,” and “Whip It” were embellished by bizarrely comical visuals of space travel, kitties, anime fruits and singing bikini butts. That may sound totally strange and random, but was the perfect backdrop for Devo’s punk rock arcade sound. At times the music and light show actually made me feel like I was inside of an Asteroids game, bouncing around space and rocking out with my fellow spuds.
Devo performances are legendary, and the band may have went through just as many costume changes as songs, finally tearing off their signature hazmat suits and playing the “Freedom of Choice” encore wearing hot dog shirts and skimpy shorts. The members of Devo aren't kids anymore, but they play with a youthful intensity that many younger bands can’t seem to lock in to these days (read our recent review of Neon Indian). The band definitely deserved the headlining slot, playing longer and faster than Blondie (not that it was a competition) and generating a major buzz amongst the Austin fans.
Glammed out in almost all gold, Blondie took the stage to major applause, cheerfully telling the audience that Tuesday is now her favorite day of the week and rehashing some old Austin memories. After a few songs the legendary front woman shed her jacket and shades so she could dance to the music. One way or another, Blondie made it through a large portion of her most popular songs, each one getting a louder response from an adoring crowd awed from being in the presence of one of pop music’s greatest. The highlight may have been Debbie Harry effortlessly busting out the rap verses in “Rapture” and following it up with a tease of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn.”
Lately there have been a whole lot of these throwback tours with nostalgia acts teaming up to bring fans the ultimate sing-a-long experience, and I completely support this trend. Fans and bands alike may be climbing the age ladder, but if the music still sounds good and the artists can perform without a wheelchair, rock on dammit! -Neil Ferguson