With the major label Warner Bros. still supporting them and their platinum hit "Whip It!" still in the collective consciousness, new wave group Devo took to the road in 1981 with their New Traditionalists tour, an ambitious, expensive, and elaborate tour that featured a stage setup with background video projections and, quite strikingly, three 20-foot treadmills as props. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh would sing his part, play his keyboard riff, and then let the treadmill carry him backwards, all before running up to the mike at the last second to hit his next mark in a James Brown-styled bit of showmanship. Shockingly, the tour was never professionally captured, and that's on video and audio. Seeing it is believing, but at least there's this, a liberated cassette recording found at Devo member Bob Casale's house in the late '90s by Michael Pilmer aka Devo-Obsesso. The tape comes right off the soundboard with enough room ambience mixed in as to not sound flat, and besides a couple wrinkles and a bit of wow and flutter, it's a professional-grade recording and one that is even punchy enough to sound post-2000. Musically, the set list is a powerful run through the group's early catalog with New Traditionalists tracks like "Going Under," "Race of Doom," and "Soft Things" already going through some "softcore mutation" with different arrangements and sounds, but the concert-closing sequence that starts with "Uncontrollable Urge" (amazing buildup into chaos) and ends with "Gates of Steel" (a majestic, fast anthem) is played fairly "straight" and has remained in place -- give or take a song -- all the way through their 2012 shows. Fans who grabbed the Record Store Day version of this set on vinyl in 2012 can re-up with the 2013 "official" release since it adds "Working in the Coal Mine" and "Beautiful World" (here sung by band mascot "Booji Boy") to the track list, but the sound quality is a bit rougher on these Devo classics, explaining their downgrade to "bonus tracks."
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries