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Blue Man Group

Next Stage
August 13, 2003

If you asked me last week, I would have told you that I know who the Blue Man Group is but I’m not really quite sure what it is they do. Is it a concert? Is it a theater show? I knew they have a show in Las Vegas at the Luxor Hotel & Casino and a few years ago they did the cool Intel commercials with the PVC pipe but other than that minimal information, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Blue Man Group. For the best explanation of the Blue Man Group’s show, it’s probably best described on their website: These performances feature three enigmatic bald and blue characters who take the audience through a multi-sensory experience that combines theatre, percussive music, art, science and vaudeville into a form of entertainment that is like nothing else. Wow! With a description like that, when I heard they were coming to Dallas, I knew it was a show not to be missed. It appears everyone else in the metroplex had the same thought. Due to the one scheduled show selling out very quickly, another show was promptly added and it sold-out as well.  

NextStage in Grand Prairie is the perfect place for an event such as this. In contrast to such local venues as Reunion Arena and the American Airlines Center, NextStage is more like an amphitheater with a roof. There are no ‘floor’ seats or seating to the side of the stage. Every seat in the house is located in a wide arc in front of the stage yet allows everyone attending a front-facing, unobstructed view. Well done, engineers! 

Unless you’re a Blue Man Groupie (yes, they do exist; read on), you probably don’t know to much about the Blue Man Group’s history so grab your pens & papers and get ready to take notes.  

Blue Man Group evolved in the late ‘80s when three friends, Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman put their collective genius together and came up with the Blue Man Group. They started out performing on the streets of New York City and in performance art spaces in the East Village. They continued to develop their show, moved between theaters and, before you know it, the group landed a permanent home at the Astor Place Theatre in the fall of ’91. Additional shows were added in Boston in ’95, Chicago in ’97 and the now infamous show at the Luxor in Las Vegas in 2000. There are currently about 30 Blue Men who rotate performing in the stationary and touring shows. They are currently on the road with The Complex Rock tour that began mid-May in Washington DC and ends Aug 31 in Atlantic City.  

The Blue Man Group say they are continuously creating and developing new material, and they consider all the shows to be in a constant state of development. The shows in New York, Chicago and Boston are all very similar although they do differ in the size of venue in which they are performed. However, the Las Vegas show, while containing many of the same pieces from the other shows, is individually unique in that some items were specifically created for their private venue at the Luxor. 

I was pleased to find out there were two acts opening up for the Blue Man Group. First up was a powerhouse of a voice bellowing from a lovely, petite woman named Tracy Bonham. Not only just a sweet piece of eye candy, her mellow yet strong & classical voice echoed through the auditorium like a musical wind blowing through the trees: calm, soothing and enticing you to keep listening. Her time on the stage seemed to end way to soon but unknowingly we would be treated to her return to the stage later during the show.  

The second act hails from the unlikely city of Nashville, TN and calls themselves Venus Hum. You think the name’s unique? You have to see this trio perform in person and listen to their electronic dance/new age style of music to truly appreciate this unparalleled group. Led by the undeniably powerful voice of Annette Strean, the band also consists of Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle who, instead of picking up guitar picks and drumsticks, utilize the power of the microprocessor to create the musical whirlwind that blasted me to the back of my seat. While the lady took front and center in her unusual retro-style dress which seemed to fit her cute & bubbly personality to a T, the fellows, with their to-cool-for-school sunglasses on, stood behind a row of laptop computers and synthesizer keyboards, almost like something out of a futuristic musical experiment gone very good. Me being a child of the 80’s and growing up listening to bands like Depeche Mode and New Order might have something to do with my immediate liking of Venus Hum but it might just have something to do with the musical talent they so easily displayed on stage. Once again, we would be graced by the return of all three members later in the evening. 

To say the Blue Man Group experience is only comprised of the three blue dudes would be somewhat unfair to the rest of the performers because they are a definite part of the show and integral to the performance. There is an 8-piece band backing up the strange trio, from numerous drummers to guitar and keyboard players. Their performances and actions are as well thought out and choreographed as the rest of the show.  

You get drawn in before the show even starts by watching two scrolling message boards on either side of the stage displaying a combination of interesting facts and digital ‘jabs’ at the opposing board and it’s messages. It was quite amusing and helped pass the between-set down time with a laugh.  

Oh, and yes, there was a flock of Blue Man groupies, all adoring white shirts and what seem to be toilet paper headbands. Instead of applauding, they put their hands in the air as to pay homage to their blue gods. At any another show they might have seemed out of place and a bit strange but after witnessing the explosion of light and sound the Blue Man Group put forth, it's understandable how someone can get drawn into the captivating world the Blue Men create. 

Once the show begins, it is a virtual neurosensory overload. Lights. Music. Action all over the stage. The Blue Men are like curious, blue aliens dropped in the middle of the auditorium here to study and lean the way of humans. The basic theme of the show was to learn how to rock so we received instructions informing us of the ‘Rock Concert Movements’ we were to perform during the evening. First is the head bob. Second, the one-armed fist pump. And finally, we had to master the art of jumping up and down. All of these movements came in handy as the Blue Men guided us through the show. The stage had a large screen in the background showing different videos throughout the show like many concerts do these days. However, there was something else that added to the effect like I never imagined. There were vertical screens placed throughout the stage setting and one long one placed horizontal at the edge of the stage. The images from the large, main screen transferred over onto the screens on stage giving the effect of one continuous movement. The yellow leaves seeming to fall all over the stage was beautifully mesmerizing. 

I’m still in as much awe writing this as I was that night watching the unusual performance the Blue Man Group put on. They did their famous beating of the PVC pipe, pounding out rhythmic melodies only to have the band join in and fill-out the sound, making it seem as if a wild, African tribe was on the prowl, beating their war drums with timing perfection. At one point, two of the Blue Men came out on stage with huge apparatuses strapped on their backs. There were PVC pipes in the front with long, black tubes leading off and around to the back. It almost seemed as if they were carrying around giant, 20-legged spiders. The instruments sounded as unique as they looked and proceeded to surprise the people in the first few rows when confetti and silver streamers exploded out of the contraptions, covering them at the end of the song. We were also treated to a trip down the throat of an audience member and into his stomach through the help of a small, lipstick camera the Blue Men used on stage throughout the night and a little bit of video-editing trickery. But it was effective in getting a good ‘Eww’ out of the audience. 

One of the most creative and, for lack of a better term, awesome parts of the show was undoubtedly the neon outline men that showed up several times throughout the night. Almost to hard to explain, they were characters on the stage and their heads, arms, legs and torsos were outlined in a glowing, neon strip. The instruments they played were glowing as well and seeing the overall spectacle was truly something to remember.  

Flowing with the theme of the rock concert atmosphere, we were treated to a montage of various classics artists and songs from the past. While Devo Whipped It, Ozzy rode the Crazy Train, The Who told us about Babba O’Riley and Led Zeppelin let us feel their Cashmere. It ended with Tracy Bonham coming out and doing an amazing rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.  

One member of the band steps forth on several songs to lend his vocals ensuring the night didn’t go totally speechless, since the Blue Men stay totally silent throughout the entire show. Peter Moore showed he has a great singing voice well matched to the styling of the Blue Man Group’s music. He emphasized the fact when performing ‘Sing Along,’ the song featuring Dave Matthews that is currently being played on radio stations all over the county. The song is on their new CD with the same title as their touring show, ‘The Complex’. 

The end of the show saw the return of Venus Hum to the stage. I didn’t think it was possible but her dress this time was even more wild and colorful than the first one. It appeared to drop out of a comic book Jetson’s episode, flaring out at the bottom with wide horizontal stripes across it that flashed different colors in correlation to colors being used on the stage. Annette’s voice was once again sweetly melodic and seemed to flow around the room with a wind-like quality. 

I would honestly say without a doubt the Blue Man Group’s show was something I’ll never forget and think anyone who is still breathing would enjoy watching the spectacle in amazement as much as I did. If you didn’t, please see a doctor ASAP and find out what your problem is. 

There are only two negative points I would like to touch on regarding the show and they both have to do with the audience. First, I'd say I probably missed a good 5 minutes of the show because people in the rows in front of us kept getting up, moving, switching around, going to the bathroom, coming back and, from what I could gather, doing the hokey pokey. It seems they were searching for excuses to move around and ruin the experience of everyone behind them. Secondly, why do the less intelligent among us find it necessary to yell out during quiet moments with the intent of either making a feeble yet unsuccessful attempt at being funny or just to hear their moronic voices echoing throughout the hall? During the portion of the show where the Blue Men did songs from the past, several people thought it would be a great addition to the show to yell out, 'Play some Skynard' and 'Play Freebird.' Wow. You're so original not to mention absolutely hilarious. I can only imagine the thoughts the performers on stage had about our lowly, self-appointed audience representatives. Not only is the intelligence of some of these people in the range of a vacuum cleaner, their maturity level is along the norm from what I remember of junior high school. I didn't pay money to look at your fat ass or to hear your stupid comments bellowed out to everyone in attendance. In other words, sit down, shut up and watch the show, moron. Thank you. 

David Mills