Rock Concerts for Dummies
Blue Man Group: The Complex Rock Tour
Review by Ross Anthony

Tracy Bonham opens the show with a bold and brilliant electric violin/vocal recreation of a Led Zeppelin's classic -- a sweet and sharp way to break into show and appropriate given her last name (same as the late great John Bonham -- drummer of Zep). Tracy's trio (add a guitarist & keyboardist) continues eerily without a drummer. (Though they did have a drum machine.) BTW, found out after the show from a blue man that there's no relation to old Johnster. Vocals reminiscent of Amos or Morissette, strong but mixed too low. And the mix in general, too bassy (for my taste). Liked the 1/2 tone key changes, and though most of the words weren't clear, I did hear and enjoy this line, "Someone took the birds and the bees and put them in your eyes."

Venus Hum, takes the stage with power and a lead female vocal that bursts from the stage with confidence, class, and streaming talent. With a marching texture of keyboard and sampled sounds behind she belts operatically with a voice that would turn the heads of Annie Lennox or Bjork. (Click here for Bjork Interview). Sometimes the music bounces into a bubble gum rock, sometimes a pounding African back beat, Pink Floyd driving repetitive progressions complemented with odd video images -- a hummingbird lands in slow mo, vehicle schematics, cosmos. At first, the band commands the excitement of an aerial cam viewing Julia Andrews romping on some mountainside, but eventually, the tunes turn club, the heavy bassy drones tiring.

Blue Man Group: The Complex Rock Tour The blue men shadows are projected from behind on a huge white screen by flashing strobes. The strobes rove like panning cameras, giving the blue men images a well edited multi-camera shoot feel. The blue men pound out a rhythm, the curtain drops revealing three blue men and a stepping stage of four drummers, and several guitarists behind. In the fore stage, a twisting mass of white PVC pipes upon which the three blue men pound with glowing orange sticks.

The blue men maintain a certain alien presence, confused but curious, tentative yet searching, kitten eyes. They pull a tiny probing camera from the tubes and capture each other onstage -- their images enlarged many times live on the video screen above.

The video screen and 1950's style narration detail (in tongue and cheek style) the finer points of giving a rock concert. "ROCK CONCERT MOVEMENT #4: GET A CLOSER LOOK AT YOUR AUDIENCE" With that, the blue men seek out a front row fan (a plant no doubt) and drop the camera on a wire down his throat. The video screen displays the inside of this guy's esophagus for all to see. (This bit is as gross as the concert gets; in fact, otherwise the show is rather tame and family friendly).

Constructing a "Trombone-like" drum out of the PVC, two of the blue men pull and push different percussive tones from the pipe-puzzle as the third blue man taps on. Cool.

This is exactly the fusion of a Rock Concert and a sort of educated/aesthetic mime show. Hard driving guitars, male lead vocals, with the occasional guest female singer (Tracy or Venus Hum) always with a raining beat from 4 to 7 drummers. It's pretty loud. Speaking of drummers, the closest on the back platform places his symbols nearly 9 feet above the platform -- he stands the entire show and has to hop from his tiptoes to crash those Zildjians. That's rather impressive. And the lighting too, as meticulously percussive as the drums. Nicely done.

Highlights include: Tracy's guest singer rendition of "Go ask Alice" (complete with jellyfish and dragonfly props). The green "laser-esque" men flicking their "light-sabers" to the rhythm in an eerie display of green light. The drum splash: Stagehands douse the front stage drums with water, as the blue men drum the water splashes up and catches red light. A spectacle against their blue faces and black shirts. A cover of "Baba O'Reilly (Teenage Wasteland)" with its unique keyboard intro recreated on mobile-wrapping-tube instruments that engulf two blue men like small space vehicles. Impressive.

Over all the show is great fun, I recommend it. If you're sensitive to loud music, you may want to bring cotton for your ears. Our particular showing was held at the Shrine -- a fine enough venue, save for the ground floor seating which slopes pathetically faintly from stage to back wall. I saw way too much of the guy's head in front of me. The balcony looked like it enjoyed a better slope.

I spoke with one of the blue men afterwards (Eric). I asked him just what those blue masks were made of. He said that they're not masks, just blue grease paint and that it breathes sweat pretty well. He did mention though, that there's a latex piece over his hair and ears - and that's covered with grease paint as well. I asked if the blue men where musicians or performers first. He said that they came with different talents and that while he was a drummer, others were actors that learned to drum.

Oh here's an interesting aside, at one point a blue man steps up to the middle of the front stage in a dramatic pose, he lights his lighter and holds it up. A testament to Californians kicking the habit, only a handful of people in the audience actually own lighters, and instead of a sea of light, only a few lonely flames join in.

The following is the B.M.G. Artist Statement regarding this unusual performance:

The recording of our second album and the creation of the corresponding concert event have been an incredible creative journey. We wanted to make a different statement with this album and concert - - to have it stand out in a way that even our previous work had not. At first we continued where Audio left off, honing our recording skills and zeroing in even more on what we felt was the "Blue Man sound." As we began, we all felt the pull towards more song-like structures and were intrigued at the idea of having a voice.

We began to write lyrics and build songs around them. We stuck to the themes and ideas that have been present in all Blue Man work: urban isolation, the cultural mask, group experience, tribalism, and sensory overload. We explored many concepts that felt near to us, but this time, we began to explore them with words, voices, and melodies.

What makes this body of work unique is that it exists in a variety of mediums. For some, it may begin with the first notes played at the top of the show or with the purchase of the new album. For others, it may begin when someone catches our music videos, views our DVD or sees a performance on television.What makes all these components interesting is that while they all contain similar elements, each is approached as a unique creative challenge. On the album themes are explored via lyrics, sounds, melodies, and even images in the artwork. In our live performance, themes are explored using music, video, set, props, and other technical elements. On the upcoming DVD we will add music videos, interviews, behind the scenes video and more. Television appearances feature material carefully molded to fit that particular show and audience.

This is a new body of work and is wildly different from our ongoing theatrical productions. We hope the live experience of the concert will share the excitement of the music with the audience and that the album will open up new opportunities in the rock world. Also, we hope that this project will help people see us as a creative organization that works in a variety of mediums making exciting and innovative work everywhere we go.

Chris Wink, Matt Goldman & Phil Stanton, Blue Man Group Founders
(btw, these founders did not perform in this particular show.)

This review based on the August 7th, 2003 performance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

(BTW, if you like entertainment with a quirky edge, thinking tone and good heart, click here to WIN a FREE signed Ross Anthony Novel. )




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Copyright © 1998-2016 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Check out his other sites too: Author*Illustrator*Speaker, Motobookothon 2009, M9, Write Triangle, TwT. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.


Last Modified: Thursday, 24-Feb-2011 08:46:45 PST