Kind of Blew: Blue Man Group at Jones Hall

(See a slideshow of photos from the performance.)

Art Attack has a confession to make.

Until last night, I'd never seen a Blue Man Group performance. Not even during my mid-'90s New York years, when my cousin did PR for them and her then-boyfriend developed their wacky instruments. Tickets weren't an issue. It just wasn't interesting or important enough to me.

Aside from now being able to say I've seen a Blue Man performance, I'm virtually unchanged.

Walking out of Jones Hall last night, I was at a loss for how this show, aside from displaying technical mastery, musicianship, and design talent, manages the worldwide adoration it receives.

But then I remembered: I cannot fucking stand "audience participation."

Even though it was pretty obvious the audience members that were brought onstage to participate were plants, most blatantly the "late arrival" couple that bring the show to a halt so everyone can gawk at them, every time those blue weirdoes entered the orchestra section and scanned the crowd, ripples of fear sloshed through my body.

Finally, it was during a call-and-response session in which we were asked to display certain "rock concert gestures," like fist-pumping, "raise the roof" and "wave your hands in the air like you just don't care," that I wanted to trample over anyone I could in a desperate rush to the nearest exit. Call me a bad sport, whatever. No one orders me to participate in a collective booty-shaking session. (Yes, that fucking happened.)

Also, for an entertainment franchise that relies heavily on technology in its productions, Blue Man Group is surprisingly critical of it. Remember those Intel Pentium commercials? The blue guys have changed their minds apparently, since they feel the need to include a bit of info-tainment on how people (particularly teenagers) text too much. Really?

There's also a veiled hate-campaign on contemporary art in the show, with tired references to pretension and "my kid could paint that" sentiments. But the Blue Man creators are pretentious enough to flash the name "Yves Klein" on a screen for a half-second, and then spend an entire bit teaching us how our eyes work--rods and cones, remember...fifth grade science class?

(Admittedly, I loved when one of the Blue Men took a vacuum tube and sucked "Christina" off that field in the famous Wyeth painting.)

Eventually, it was time for the big audience balloon toss, with streamers shooting through the air, and for a few minutes it felt like a Flaming Lips concert, but of course without the most important element--the Flaming Lips.

All in all, it was pure spectacle, a kids' show--the kid behind me loved it; wouldn't shut up--with hidden dick jokes for the adults and enough "social" commentary to make people feel like their consciousness was raised somehow, a kind of art-comedy-circus church.

Gross. I've seen audience-participation shows that went the real hardcore route, with people being publicly humiliated against their will, only to be told they knew what they were getting into when they bought a ticket. Sound horrible? At least it was real. Blue Man is the only show where an audience member (again, a plant) can yell "Freebird!" and the band actually obliges.

I miss the Doug Anthony All Stars. They were the original "blue" men, in my book.

(Video below NSFW.)

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Troy Schulze
Contact: Troy Schulze