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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 8/4/03 |   |

There's no trick to becoming a rock star. The guitar god pose, the fist pump, the pelvic thrust, knowing how to get close to your audience - it's all in the instruction book.

But if you are a Blue Man - not quite alien, not quite human, following instructions isn't as simple as it sounds. That's the essential premise of Blue Man Group's rock tour in support of its album, The Complex.

Co-founders Chris Wink, Matt Goodman and Phil Stanton have taken the "Blue Man" character from the streets of New York City's East Village to off-Broadway to showcases in Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston and NYC over the span of 10 years, all to great acclaim for the irreverent, edgy act.

"I guess to tie it in with what's happening now, the Blue Man is saying, 'What is this rock concert thing? What is this rock concert ritual?' because this is very interesting to him. This is fascinating," Wink explained to POLLSTAR.

"The premise of the whole thing is that at the very beginning of the show, a video comes on and says, 'Thank you for purchasing the rock concert instructional manual.' And, basically, they're reading the manual in real time and seeing if they can follow it.

"But, of course, they get their wires mixed and interpret things their own way. For example it says 'Rock Concert Movement 14: Getting a Closer Look at the Audience.' Well, the Blue Man ... he thinks that means taking an esophagus cam and sticking it down someone's throat and then looking at their stomach."

It's the same application of Blue Man innocence and curiosity - and not a little biting of the hands that feed them, that is their trademark. Now, they are bringing it to new audiences with a full summer tour of mainly sheds with backing band Venus Hum and singer Tracy Bonham.

"We're making fun of [rock concerts] a little bit but at the end of the day, what we always do in our shows is: whatever we make fun of we end up having it roll over. In the end, when you walk away, it's really a celebration of it. You don't walk away from a Blue Man show and go, 'You know, they're right. Art sucks.'"

But the rock tour is a completely different challenge for the troupe. Instead of designing a stage for a long-term residency in a given venue, the caravan marks the first time they are having to pack up the show and truck it from city to city. Jerry Barrett at Clear Channel Touring has been instrumental in keeping the seven-truck show rolling, and that's no simple task.

"We have this whole huge multimedia element that has animated three-dimensional jellyfish swimming upstream in the middle of the stage ... animation that is actually on people's costumes, things that will absolutely blow people's minds, we hope," Wink said.

Then, there is the issue of the Blue Men themselves, or at least the performers under the skull caps and blue latex paint.

"We did the Area2 tour and a couple of dates didn't have the rooftop like some venues do, and there was direct sunlight hitting the stage. When that direct sunlight hits the blue head, regardless of what the temperature is, it's just excruciating for the performer," Wink said, adding that there are backup Blue Men in case of emergency.

It wasn't like they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. Little Big Man Booking's Marty Diamond was the key to bringing the idea of a rock tour to fruition, leading the creative team through the process and showing them the rock concert ropes with the help of Larry Webman.

"Marty is one of the reasons we're doing this tour," Wink said. "We met him about four years ago and everyone we talked to said, 'If you guys ever decide you want to do this, he's the one to hook up with.' And he was very patient.

"We weren't exactly excited about going through the huge learning curve that would be involved in going on the road. Marty was integrally a part of developing the framework and the concept of how this would all work."

Diamond helped show Blue Man Group the lay of the concert landscape by booking on some dates with the Area2 outing.

"I have been patiently waiting for them to build a touring show," Diamond told POLLSTAR. "I thought Area2 with Moby was really a good seed-planting device for people to realize the genius that exists within their organization.

"It's a completely different show," Diamond stressed. "The motivation for it and the spirit underneath it are very different from the theatrical property."

That may be, but Wink, who once was a drummer in a band, finds the rock concert communal experience to be on par with that of the theatrical world, even though Blue Man Group may poke fun at it.

"You know rock concerts are funny and they are silly, and who would have thought that in the modern 21st Century they would still be around. But ... when those lights go out and the moments when the music really kicks in, or the chorus really takes off, or there's a slow moment at just the right time...there's just something absolutely amazing about a rock concert."

And that's the part that you won't find a recipe for in the instruction manual.


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