If there was anything lacking at the Blue Man Group’s “Complex Rock Tour” Saturday night at the Rosemont Theatre, I didn’t notice. PVC pipes, Judy Jetson dresses and an odd little trio of bald, blue men. …What more could you ask for in a rock ‘n’ roll concert?
From the infectious dulcimers that started the show to the thundering crescendos that ended it 90 minutes later, the Blue Man Group and its eight-piece percussion-heavy backup band delivered what a bevy of “real” rock bands consistently fail to deliver–awesome musicianship enhanced by unadulterated good humor and fun.
Like their long-running avant- garde theatrical production at Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre, the Blue Man Group’s concert began with audio visual material that pitted itself against, well, itself. The words scrolling across the stage right monitor mocked the cautionary suggestions on the stage left monitor for being too conservative and goody two shoes.
As fans of the theatrical concept know, the Blue Men never, ever speak. They got around this quirk by having guest artists sing with them. Both their openings acts Tracy Bonham and the Texas trio Venus Hum joined them onstage, as did backup musician Peter Moore. All three are featured on the Blue Man Group’s album “The Complex,” which has sold more than 500,000 copies since its April release.
Moore subbed in for Dave Matthews, who sings on the album, and Bonham did a yeoman’s job playing violin and tackling an impressive version of the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”
But the evening’s vocal highlight’s belonged to Venus Hum’s powerhouse singer Annette Strean, whose pristine powerful voice had the rich delivery of a jazz artist, but also the quirky innovative quality of Bjork. As part of the opening act, she seemed awkward onstage. She’d fare better if she had a guitar, or even a triangle, to play live. But singing Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” in a space-age flickering mini-dress, Strean was in her element.
The Blue Man Group got away with incorporating some serious rock ‘n’ roll cliches by mocking them. As a serious-voiced announcer pointed out the stagnant rock star moves that are de rigueur for all bands–the head bob, the one-armed fist pump, bringing audience members onstage to dance and up and down jumping–the performers mimicked them.
And because this is the Blue Man Group, they had to throw in another for good measure: the behind-the-head leg stretch. Apparently, the only rock band that will be able to match this move would be an offshoot of Cirque du Soleil.
The ultimate question is: Was the “Complex Rock Tour” truly a rock concert? For purists, no. But aside from the bald blue men, were the theatrics really any more distracting than, say, giant blow-up dolls at a Rolling Stones show or a outhouse-size lemon at a U2 concert?