Feeling blue? Depending on the context, this can be a good thing. The three blue men from an unknown planet dropped into St. Louis’ Scottrade Center (formerly Savvis Center) this October for How to Be a Megastar, v. 2.0, a For Dummies-style guide to manipulating the media, understanding mankind, and finding one’s true self in a sea of corporate bullshit.
Friend and past touring companion Tracy Bonham kicked off the event with her voice that swings between gritty and beautiful; just as her instruments switched between acoustic guitar and electric violin. With her strong folk-rock tinged with melancholy, Bonham knows how to charge up the audience, taking them on occasional tangential covers that dip into classics such as Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” A deceivingly simple one-girl act soon showed its true colors when a silk screen dropped midway through her gi-normous hit from the 90s, “Mother, Mother,” to reveal a full band kicking in behind her.
The Blue Men have always included bits of collected media, obviously been smitten with the Mentos and Diet Coke film circling the Internet, and they shared this Bellagio Fountain rival with the audience as a warm-up to their show.
And then, in darkness, the now-familiar voiceover prepared us: YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE.
We at Nighttimes.com have covered the Blue Man Group a number of times now. We’ve told you it’s the best light show EVER. We’ve told you the music is stirring, exciting and unique—played through giant plastic tubes, a piano turned on its side and hit with a mallet, drums full of flying paint… that’s all old news. We’ve told you about the humor—sometimes slapstick, sometimes gross, mostly wry and critical of our times, taking artistic jabs at corporate life and modern society. We’ve told you about their mystified wonderment of the human condition; expression and connection that makes us turn our own lives upside down and question why we do what we do.
As on the preceding two Blue Man tours, the audience was directed through the basic Rock Concert Movements: The Basic Head Bob, the 2-Armed Fist Pump, and the not-so-easy Behind the Head Leg Stretch (which my friend Tim can do, but I digress…), all followed by the command, READY? GO! It’s essentially the same show as in the past few years, with the same songs and some of the same guest vocalists (although we really missed not having Venus Hum this time around). The Blue Man Group show is always amusing, thought-provoking and exciting, even if no longer surprising to the veterans in the crowd.
For those who’ve never been, an evening of digital designs, poking fun at the Internet, spam, the media at large, and even traveling down someone’s throat are presented alongside step-by-step instructions on developing an iconic rock persona, creating over-priced souvenirs (their little booklet went for $25 freaking dollars in the concourse!), and dancing figures of light. The announcer reminded the Blue Men to make a humble gesture, remembering rock icons as a preemptive strike against anyone who’s noticed what calloused, delusional asses they have become. The men obeyed with quick musical tributes to Pink Floyd, Devo, Ozzy and more. The announcer reminded us: ONCE YOUR GROUP IS HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL, THE CUTEST AMONG YOU MAY BRANCH OUT FOR A SOLO PROJECT. Yes, How to be a Megastar, v. 2.0 covered all the Spinal Tap worthy clichés, down to ultimately gassing the masturbatory lead guitarist and dressing him in a vest and pants of mirrors.
The message of the BMG is mixed: it’s about how technology, media and marketing hurt and help, and there’s nothing more fun than the childlike bewilderment on their bright blue faces as they take it all in. So how do we feel, now that there are Blue Man Swatches, and Toys ‘R Us is selling Blue Man Percussion Tubes and other musical instruments like hotcakes this Christmas? It’s hard to know if it’s a sell-out --or a successful job getting the message to the next generation.
Big ideas in a big place are perhaps the reason this show was less audience-engaged than previous ones at the Fox or at some of their permanent installations. Still, it was ten times more intimate than anything to come to the Scottrade Center before or likely, ever will.
“Will you share some of your stuff with me?” a young man I’d never met asked, nodding to my foil strips as we walked out of the arena. I wrapped his neck in streamers as if adorning him with a Hawaiian lei. “Can I have a hug too?” he said, smiling. And he wasn't even hitting on me. Swear to God. But of course!
And that’s how it is at a Blue Man show.
Ultimately, the Blue Man Group is about finding satisfying, meaningful connections with others. Maybe that’s why miles of foil and paper streamers are released on the crowd, weaving and connecting us, tying us all together in a moment of joy and love. The audience on the floor of the arena carried armfuls up to the crowds in the seats. Children danced with the elderly, and spontaneous hugs between strangers were seen all around. Blue Man Group is more than a concert, more than a party, and thank God, it’s so much better than religion. You can’t leave it feeling blue.
Photo by Darbe Rotach at Blue Man Productions, Inc.