A total of 5 acts performed for us tonight at the Akron Civic Theatre, a gorgeously-ornate venue. I went with fellow spudboy Plook and our seats were in the second row pit, stage left. Absolutely perfect view and just a couple of feet from the stage.
First up was a young local singer-songwriter named Chris Allen. He played three lovely songs and said good night. Chris has a fantastic voice and his music is catchy and well-written. Expect good things. Next up were The Black Keys. I hear they are popular with the kids these days. They are a drummer and a guitarist/singer who play really catchy fast blues rock really loud. Quite exciting, but after the third song I was a little tired of the sound. With just two of them and playing in a rather narrow style, the songs start to sound the same after a while. But quite energetic and entertaining performers. I can imagine an early version of Rush sounding like this – I’m picturing Alex on drums and Geddy on guitar and vocals.
After that there was an intermission followed by another singer-songwriter, a young woman named Rachel Roberts. Very easy on the eyes with long black hair and a beautiful face. She dressed like Chrissy Hynde used to, that is to say kind of hott. She played two songs, the first of which was lovely and the second one sung in a completely different style reminiscent of Joan Baez which didn’t come off so well.
Then, the most awesome and unexpected treat of the night, Chrissie Hynde herself came out and played for us with acoustic accompaniment. Her voice was just stellar and the songs she played from her new Pretenders record were really great. She is such a classy dame whom I’ve loved since the first Pretenders record (1980?) and I was totally thrilled by her surprise appearance at the show.
Then, another short intermission and a bit of political banter by a couple of local government officials who went on to introduce the main act of the night, DEVO. The show started with a video montage featuring General Boy and clips of DEVO visuals from their entire career building up to a crescendo of images and sound followed by the band kicking in to “Thats Good”. They sounded great and were astoundingly energetic for their age (sorry guys). They kept the energy up throughout a 12-song set that covered all of their best and/or most popular songs, pretty much the same set they have been playing in their rare appearances these last few years or so. But the energy was way higher than I’d seen on recent concert videos. I think they were genuinely jazzed to be playing before a full house in their home town after all this time (30 years!).
The crowd was very appreciative. At one point a young man got a little too appreciative and managed to get on stage. Security was slow to react, and as the man got to Jerry Casale’s mic Jerry backed away quickly and the guy bellowed something in to the mic before being escorted off-stage by the stage crew. After that the security guys at either end of the stage positioned themselves centrally in the pit to deter any copycats.But man, what a show. It was pretty much the presentation I expected but it was so much more thrilling than I had imagined it could be. And afterwards, our primo tickets got us access to the after-show party upstairs. All the performers came through and mingled with the 100 or so VIP passholders. We were served a multitude of Hors d’oeuvres and an open bar kept everyone pleasantly buzzed. It was a little overcrowded most of the time, but everyone was beautiful and friendly and it was just a hoot to see and exchange a few words with Chrissie and the members of DEVO. I kind of avoided getting pictures and autographs, I think I’d just look stupid and what would I do with an autograph? My wingspud Plook had no such shyness, and he chatted and got pics and autographs with all of DEVO before we headed out.