Review – Blue Man Group

Date Reviewed: 25th May, 2009
Venue: MEN Arena

star

The basic concept of the Blue Man Group is that, as strangers in a strange land, their innocent outlook helps us re-evaluate things with which we have become familiar – specifically what constitutes art. It seems odd , therefore, to see an art group play a massive arena.

The reason becomes clear as soon as the show starts. As part of their Megastar World Tour the Blue Men are examining the concept of superstardom. It is not an original concept, even if we ignore Spinal Tap art rockers like Frank Zappa and Laurie Anderson have flirted with the idea. What surprises is the scale of the show, as it so spectacular that it could only be held in an arena.

The Blue Men are backed by an eight-piece band. It is a thankless task as they cannot produce any music other than generic rock in case it distracts from the central performance. Still, they get to perform creditable versions of “I Feel Love” and “Baba O’Reily.” The latter features the Blue Men playing percussion on pipes twisted around their bodies in a fashion that makes them resemble Dr.Octopus.

The Group’s percussion is a powerful feature of the show. They use spoons and other implements to produce a beat from pipes, drums and a base drum so big it could be mistaken for the Bat Signal. It is hard to be cool about a damn good beat.

The show opens with the Blue Men using a credit card from an audience member to purchase an instruction book on how to become a rock megastar. The Group follow the steps towards magastardom and take us with them on their journey.

It is a truism that unless satire is specific its intended targets will miss the point. In this respect the show is gentle – rarely naming names. Advice to develop dance skills to compensate for an inablity to sing does not specify the artists they have in mind.

As a show the event is both original and spectacular. Instructions to the audience on how to adopt rock moves are accompanied by manipulating the lights in the arena as if they were musical instruments- until a fuse is blown. Excitingly the neon matchstick figures from the screens come to life and perform on-stage.

In true megastar style the Blue Men include a medley of their past hits. One of the trio throws bubblegum into the mouth of one of his partners and paint-filled ping-pong balls into the other. When spat onto canvas or chewed into a shapless lump these give an approximation of abstract art. Or maybe they are real abstract art . Either way they are awarded a substrantial price tag.

The Megastar Tour is a broader theme than the Blue Man Group have tackledĀ  in the past. Their reluctance to be specific as to their targets makes the show appreciative rather than critical. On the other hand the Blue Men do lead by example by presenting a show that is more spectacular and original than some real rock shows. Now that is ironic.

-Dave Cunningham.

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