- Crown Theater, June 19
A 20-something in a Less Than Jake shirt, fist-pumping to a band that scored its biggest hit in 1980, covering a '60s rock standard at the opening of a new Vegas venue in 2010. Yeah, Devo remains one of the weirdest bands on earth. Was the energy-domed "Whip It" crew an ideal fit for Crown Theater's live-music launch? Judging by the half-empty 900-capacity room inside the Rio, probably not (the $85 price tag couldn't have helped in that regard). But loyal fans who gathered near the stage, many in full oddball regalia, are sure to remember their heroes' 75-minute performance with great fondness.
More casual types — several dozen invited VIP and media seated to one side, for example — seemed unsure what to make of it all. Openers Afghan Raiders were received with general indifference, though the local trio's set left little doubt about Crown's impressive sound system, upgraded since Prince's 3121 residency ended in 2007. Devo did what Devo does best, running through its catalog — three songs off new disc Something for Everybody, a slew of numbers from 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and, yes, "Whip It" — while working through a variety of silly routines and flashy costumes. The first half was synthy pop, the back end guitar'd-out rock, building to powerhouse closer "Gates of Steel" and encore "Freedom of Choice."
If it lasts, Crown could fill a significant Vegas void: midsize room for acts too big for Downtown and too small for the House of Blues, Pearl or Joint. Its multi-tiered setup provides clean sightlines to the well-raised stage, while an array of wall-mounted screens offers bands an opportunity for a considerable video upgrade (though having to alternate attention between screens and stage ultimately lessened Devo's overall impact).
The chief complaint? A total lack of restrooms inside the venue. It's no fun missing songs to hunt around in the casino, and that could cost Crown in bar receipts. Seems like the kind of risk a new Vegas venture can't afford to take.