Monday, September 24, 2012

Blue Man Group Lights-up the Orpheum

[View the gallery of the Blue Man Group teaching percussion at The School of Rock in St. Paul]
 Irreverence: there could be no other take away from watching the aptly named Blue Man Group’s latest show at the Orpheum. A 21st century mime trio, Blue Man Group mixes cerulean body paint with shades of the Three Stooges, modern technology and the stunts and flash of musical groups like Daft Punk.

Their claim to fame, and the highlight of their concerts, is the extraordinary percussion pieces performed on little more than artfully sculpted PVC pipe. Vacuum tubes that look like corneal blood vessel marching drums and Tim Burton-y xylophones show that almost anything can be musical with enough creativity. Their variation in timbre and unique sound is truly inspiring.

Technological gag jokes comprised another third of the show, riffing on Apple’s extraordinary ubiquity with “Gipod” takes on touch screens, digital dress-up and sound mixing. Personally, I preferred their old-school physical comedy routine better, but the electronic teasing had the audience roaring.

The other third of the show featured Blue Man Group’s fusion of commentary on modern art and its creation. Paintings made of wet splatters from drum heads and paint filled gumballs were fun to watch and became cool souvenirs for the front rows. The best piece, however, was a “statue” made of innumerable marshmallows that one of the blue men swallowed as they were tossed at him. The corresponding price tag he used after disgorging said marshmallows onto his canvas made the best possible pantomime of many forms of abstract art (sorry Walker Art Center).
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Photo: Paul Konlik
The show closed with streamers and enormous light up bouncy balls cascading over the audience, with the on-stage backup band tossing their black light skeleton duds and outrageously large hair as frequently as they scaled their instruments. It was quite a sight. Anyone sitting in the front rows should be prepared to participate at their own peril. Several audience members were called to the stage to help eat twinkies, make body paintings and more.
Blue Man Group is a great show for anyone to see once, and an excellent way to introduce kids and teens to thinking more deeply about the worlds of percussion, art and technology. It can be a bit tired for those who have experienced it before, but is definitely a performance you can only enjoy fully from a seat in the theater.