Devo had been on the road pretty much non-stop for five years when they secured a spot on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in October of 1979, and by that point they were one of the best live acts on the planet. The Ohio new wave group performed on Saturday Night Live exactly one year earlier, but many people in America still didn’t know what to make of this bizarre quintet singing songs with titles like “Blockhead” and “Mongoloid.” Some of the selections in this four-song set they’d been playing for years, but after the punk revolution they sped the tempos up to a breakneck speed.
This amazing performance took place three months after Devo’s second album Duty Now for the Future hit shelves, but half the songs come from their debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!. One of the “new” tunes, a deranged and heavily altered cover of Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man,” had been in their live repertoire since their earliest shows around Akron, Ohio, back in 1974.
Hardcore Devo fans have always loved this performance since they tear through the songs at such an insane speed. “Mongoloid” is especially frenetic, almost sounding like the film was sped up. It wasn’t. They were just on fire that day.
Devo-mania swept America the following year when “Whip It” hit the radio, but they never quite recaptured the raw energy and excitement of their 1970s albums and shows.