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Devo and Blondie live!

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

The new wave era was alive and well on the final date of the cheekily titled “Whip It To Shreds” tour as Blondie and Devo brought a double bill filled with era-defining treasures and a few newer tunes to the Chicago Theatre Wednesday. Big Apple rockers Blondie kicked off the night with several songs that literally defined the CBGB scene, but Debbie Harry and company made sure this wasn’t just a nostalgia trip.

While it was certainly smart to get into the groove with the charmer “Dreaming” and the gutsy “Hanging On The Telephone,” the recent “Love Doesn’t Frighten Me” (off last year’s Panic Of Girls) had no trouble fitting in with yesterday or today, easily sounding like something Neon Trees or the recently reunited Garbage could’ve recorded. The interweaving of past and present continued with the current synth-pop gem “D-Day” and the classic “Call Me,” anchored by the whip smart rhythm section of guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke.

The potent “Rip Her To Shreds,” downright ferocious “One Way Or Another,” and sweetly soulful “Heart Of Glass” were other enduring touchstones from the group’s lengthy history, though inserting three covers in the ultra lean 70 minute set meant there was no time for “The Tide Is High” or “Maria.” Both were sorely missed, especially considering Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” fell flat, though at least the band seemed tailor-made for Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” and brilliantly blended its own “Rapture” with the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”

After a brief intermission, Devo picked right up where its partners left off, albeit in a slightly less accessible, continuously quirky manner. Considering Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Blondie sold over 40 million albums and Devo’s most readily remembered for merely “Whip It,” it was unexpected to find those Akron, Ohio-based pranksters closing, though what they lacked in commercial appeal was supplemented by a feverish cult following. Sporting blue cone hats (for sale in red at a steep $40), the set started out on the satirical note of “Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man),” a shiny electro rocker from its latest long-player Something For Everybody.

Fellow newer cut “Fresh” turned out to be a highlight given its insanely infectious pulsations, through retro favorites like “Peek-A-Boo!” and “Girl U Want” were more natural shoo-ins to get the crowd going. Surprisingly, a true-to-form take on “Whip It” came at only the halfway point, but not a soul tiptoed out, even as the guys took a break backstage to change into their famous yellow jumpsuits.

They returned with a jittery cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and dusted off several other underground classics, including the irreverent Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! cuts “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Mongoloid.” Novelty or not, Devo had no trouble maintaining Blondie’s momentum in an all-around tight night (sans the constant onslaught of near seizure-inducing strobe lights) that didn’t find either act mellowing with age, but rather, continuously rubbing off on many of 2012’s new wave revivalists.

— Andy Argyrakis

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