Synopsis: So, you wanna be a rock and roll star? There’s no better way to get into the megastar groove than with Blue Man Group’s HOW TO BE A MEGASTAR LIVE, filmed and recorded live in front of capacity crowds of over 40,000 fans during a two-day run of the music and performance art trio’s exhilarating 2006- 07 How To Be A Megastar Tour 2.0.
Blue Man Group’s inventive new how-to-manual, which expands on the Rock Concert Manual concept from The Complex Rock Tour, will take you through the steps of a wildly clever and interactive show that offers unique all-ages appeal.
eyelights: the show’s satirical deconstruction of rock concert conventions. the Blue Man Group’s showmanship.
eyesores: its repetitiveness.
Are Blue Man Group a band? Or a performance art troupe? Or a novelty act? Or all of the above?
I’ve wondered this for years, ever since I first heard about them in the early 2000s, when they became a hot ticket. Soon thereafter, I picked up their debut album, ‘Audio’, on DVD-Audio and was blown away by it. I was less impressed with their follow-up, ‘The Complex’, but I still considered them musicians; after all, there was so much diversity and musicianship on display.
After watching ‘How to be a Megastar Live!’, I’m not as convinced anymore.
The show, which was filmed in Dallas, Texas, during their ‘How to be a Megastar 2.0’ tour, is a mash-up of comedy, gimmickry, rock clichés and showmanship. It’s a wild, exciting show, but it’s on such a large scale that I wondered if the Blue Man Group were only the feature performers in a much bigger production – what with the twelve-piece backing band on top of their own percussions.
My impression, as I watched the show, was that Blue Man Group likely started as an performance art piece, caught the public’s attention, and grew into something oversized with time. It happens, obviously, and it’s not surprising to find out that they’ve branched out into many troupes performing around the world. But are they still the key creative force behind the show?
While they were indeed the centrepiece of the show, since it’s a rock concert the focus frequently shifted from the Blue Men to the backing band, with one of the keyboardists singing three or four songs and a female guest vocalist coming in for an equal number of songs (including an enjoyable cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” – one of a few choice covers during the set).
Meanwhile, the Blue Man group’s own percussions got lost in all the noise; what was central to the first album became secondary in this show. Granted, we could still see them tap on their peculiar plastic tubing machine, wobble poles about, bang on large drums, or even bash a piano, but we couldn’t always hear them – and this on a lossless blu-ray disc with a proper surround system.
Either way, the 90-minute show itself is a spectacle. Using all the gimmickry one might expect from large-scale rock shows, the Blue Man Group delivered a jaw-dropping hybrid set that is equally at home in an arena as on the Broadway stage: A large screen with a variety of accompanying videos, props, lighting effects, …etc. All that was missing were fire, explosions and canons.
The basic conceit of the show is that the Blue Man Group are aliens trying to become rock megastars, so they go through a pre-recorded tutelage on how to rock. Essentially, between the various musical numbers, which are largely percussion-based (there are three percussionists on top of the three Blue Men), there’s a narration that explains all the clichés of rock shows, known here as “movements”.
For instance, fist-pumping is a movement (#2, to be precise).
So, from start to finish (after the Blue Man Group have ordered a detailed manual from a humourous TV infomercial shown on screen), they go through various movements and prod the audience to join them. It’s an interactive show that must have been fun for many of the concert-goers, in that it delivered exactly all that they’d expect, but with a tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Personally, I loved their deconstruction of rock show conventions, all the way down to the “fake ending” – something which I abhor in real shows. The Blue Man Group have a clear understanding of the ridiculousness of modern rock clichés and play them up with aplomb and adroitness – and they wrap it all up in such superb showmanship that you can’t help but be entertained.
The problem is that I’m not 100% sure that the audience understood that they were part of the joke. By reveling in the clichés as they did, pumping their fists, stomping their feet and cheering on command, and even being part of the act in some instances, they essentially confirmed that which the Blue Man Group subtly decried: People consume experiences with nary a thought.
It was pretty sad to watch.
Another issue is that the Blue Man Group over-stayed their welcome. While the act was funny and entertaining for the first 35-40 minutes, it eventually became redundant; even the Blue Men’s confused looks and eccentric behaviour became tired after some time, when it was clear that they weren’t getting it. I would have preferred to see them understand and eventually relish rockin’ out.
Instead, they ended the show as confused as they’d begun; there was no character growth.
So, as a viewer, I had been entertained, but I was left with a bit of an empty feeling. As much as the Blue Man group expertly mocked the vapidness of rock concerts, they also demonstrated very little depth themselves. In caricaturing the genre, they themselves became caricatures. I just wish that they had instead found a way to elevate above it in some fashion during the process.
They did become megastars, though. And I guess, in this day and age, that’s what really matters.
I just wonder how long that novelty can last.
Date of viewing: May 12, 2016