Music Video Distributors presents
Devo: Live in the Land of the Rising Sun (2003)
"But the Earth is all we know,
we better play the human way,
so twist away those gates of steel.."- lyrics from Gates of Steel
Stars: Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerry Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh, Bob Casale, David Kendrick
Director: Scott Stanton
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable, except for a couple of quick expletives)
Run Time: 01h:14m:35s
Release Date: 2004-10-05
DVD ReviewAt least Japan still has a soft spot for the spudboys from Akron, and I can only hope that they met with the same kind of riotous, merchandise-buying fervor on their recent Stateside tour that they appeared to have on this disc. This concert, recorded somewhere in Japan in 2003, has original members Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerry Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 1) and Bob Casale (Bob 2) joined by drummer David Kendrick, who has been an official Devonian since the departure of Alan Myers in the late 1980s.
The set list for this show relies largely on vintage-era Devo, with the bulk of the material coming their 1978 debut, and of course Whip It, which really thrust the band into prominence a few years later. The guys appear to have physically de-evolved the same way I have (aka too much in the way of beer and doughnuts over the years), but they do rock with the same mutated herky-jerky spirit of the younger people we all once were.
After the standard opening short film with words of warning about fitting in from recurring character General Boy—if you don't know the whole backstory, you need to check out The Complete Truth About De-Evolution—Devo starts their set in the classic yellow jumpsuits. As the intensity progresses over the course of the rapid-fire 75 minute show, the suits tear and dangle until they are completely ripped away during an instrumental break on Jocko Homo about midway through, revealing the familiar black t-shirt/black shorts/kneepads uniform. Lead vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh, looking a bit less wild-eyed and crazed and distinctly more business-like with short hair and a neatly trimmed goatee, comes across much less alien than he ever has, and his voice only has a shadow of the menacing atonal warble he once had. Thankfully we've all gotten older, and I'm O.K. with that.
There has always been what I consider a massive sociopolitical misunderstanding about the music of Devo to the general public; what with the goofy yellow biohazard suits, the red "energy dome" hats, the robotic personas, the plastic hairdos and their whole "de-evolution/mutation" patter, I guess it was easy for a lot of surface dwellers to quickly dismiss them as some novelty act, which if you've delved deep into the whole mythos you would realize that they most certainly are not.
This is not a one-joke band. Far from it. Gerry Casale refers to it as "an organization of sound and ideas", which is a short way of saying that Devo is more than a single song or look, it is a carefully crafted mutated hybrid of concepts that contribute to the functioning of the whole theme of de-evolution. It may have started as an art joke, but it's taken on a life of its own.
Like a number of concerts recorded when bands are slightly past their youth, Devo: Live in the Land of the Rising Sun is far from the definitive performance (see the extras for a brief glimpse), but since live footage of their heyday is minimal this will suffice.
I get it. Japan seems to get it. Do you?
Girl U Want
Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy
Gates of Steel
Freedom of Choice
Come Back Jonee
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The concert is presented in 1.33:1, though occasionally the footage shows up as nonanamorphic widescreen for a scene or two. Grain is pretty heavy, and often the image is noticeably blocky. Inadequate stage lighting muddies most of the image detail into moments of blobby darkness. Not pretty, but fair.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is unfortunately less than impressive, available in either 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo. Mark Mothersbaugh's vocals have a tendency to clip and distort quite often, which makes playing this one loud not the most pleasant experience I've ever encountered. The 5.1 track uses the rear channels to good effect, however the crowd noises have a tinny, shrill sound to them. The good news is that the sub channel offers some deep, boomy rumble, though its resonance seems to vary from track to track.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Extras Review: If you'll pardon my French, the extras do indeed kick ass. There are three strong bonuses, starting with Devo Goes to Japan (11m:50s), a collection of assorted candid footage of the band riding Japanese subways, shopping for masks, eating sushi, and being interviewed by Japanese press, intercut with comments from Gerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh. David Kendrick Speaks (05m:31s) is an interview with the band's drummer, and he recounts how he came to join Devo and his thoughts on the whole mystique.
The best is last, and sadly the shortest, with some long lost footage entitled Target Video - Ultra Rare - Devo Live 1980 (04m:11s). This is what I'm talking about in terms of definitive live material, with Devo in their prime captured live, performing an inspired version of Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy. The lighting is kind of poor during the first instrumental open, but it improves once Mothersbaugh starts singing. Damn, where's the rest of this concert? I want it. Now.
There is a two-sided insert that discusses the bands love affair with Japan, and a separate insert for merchandise from Club Devo. The disc is cut into 14 chapters.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsEven with the less than perfect audio/video transfer, Devo: Live in the Land of the Rising Sun is a required purchase for mutated spuds everywhere.
Are we not men? Recommended.
Rich Rosell 2004-10-13