Blue Man Group
Experimental musical theater troupe the Blue Man Group were founded in 1987 by longtime friends Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink; identical in their blue-painted skin, skullcaps, and black clothing, they soon became a fixture of the New York underground performance art scene thanks to their regular appearances in Central Park, followed by shows at noted East Village spaces including Dixon Place, Performance Space 122, and the Wooster Group's Performing Garage. Equal parts play, concert, and sketch routine, the Blue Man Group combined sight gags, physical stunts, and audience participation, with members of the front rows given plastic rain ponchos as protection from the hail of paint, food, and other assorted projectiles launched from the stage; in early 1991, they premiered their production Tubes at La MaMa, moving to the Astor Place Theater by the end of the year and ultimately winning an Obie Award for their efforts. Tubes eventually expanded to long runs in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas; in 1999, the Blue Man Group also issued an album, Audio, spotlighting their custom musical instruments. Three years later, the trio inked a multi-album deal with Atlantic's sister label, Lava Records. The Complex, which appeared in April 2003, marked the Blue Man Group's monumental sophomore album -- a slick effort showcasing impressive collaborations with Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews, Dan the Automator, and Esthero. In 2008, the group celebrated its successful How to Be a Megastar tour by releasing a CD/DVD of the show as well as an EP of remixes of "Canta Conmigo," the successful Spanish-language interpretation of their song "Sing Along." Over the coming years, the Blue Man Group continued to expand its theatrical operations around the world, and in 2012, released an EP featuring various versions of their epic concert finale "Shake Your Euphemism." A new full-length album, Three, was released in 2016 to commemorate their 25th anniversary.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 22, 2003 | Lava
After devoting more than 15 years to building their unique fusion of edgy performance and advanced yet home-brewed technologies, the Blue Man Group moves aggressively toward the mainstream with The Complex. "Mainstream" is, of course, a flexible notion, so what passes as commercial for these guys is a lot more adventurous than most of the era's ear candy. These tracks adhere to clear song structures, with guest vocalists singing actual lyrics on original as well as cover material; a zombie-like cameo by Dave Matthews on "Sing Along" offers the wryest surprises. But an unmistakable imprint endures in the eclectic sonic references and, above all, thundering stage-oriented rhythms. The core members of the group play traditional instruments -- in this case, ranging from standard-issue electric guitar to Hungarian cimbalom, heard most clearly in the opening seconds of "Above" -- as well as their invented gear whose contributions to the din are, frankly, neither critical nor easy to discern. On their version of the disco classic "I Feel Love," for instance, the 16th-note pulse created via sequencer for the Donna Summer original is mimicked by the device they call the Tube, giving rise to the question of whether using something new to do what someone else did with old stuff 20-plus years earlier is worth the effort. But this is, of course, beside the point: Although its inspirations, musical and conceptual, trace as far back as Kraftwerk, The Complex serves as a reminder that modern devices and glistening production values can be applied to the most primal creative instincts, if utilized by the right -- blue -- hands. © Robert L. Doerschuk /TiVo
Rock - Released January 1, 1999 | Virgin Records
Blue Man Group's debut album, Audio, reflects over a decade's worth of musical and theatrical innovation. While its whimsical, visually involving stage performances have been popular since the early '90s, the group waited to make an album until it could find a recording space large enough to house its unique instruments, which include walls of drums, networks of plumbing pipe, and different lengths of vibrating fiberglass rods. Audio incorporates all of these instruments, along with baritone guitars, Hungarian cimbaloms (which are similar to dulcimers), and Chapman Sticks, into 14 eclectic instrumentals. These songs were written specifically for Audio and have never been performed at a Blue Man stage production. Though the spectacle of the group playing its sculptural, surreal-looking instruments is absent from the album, the complex, resonant sound of Audio is engaging enough on its own. In fact, the swooshing of the sword poles on "Utne Live Wire" and the fluttering angel poles on "Endless Column" sound even more alien without the visual accompaniment. Some of Audio's pieces ("Drumbone," "PVC IV") spotlight a specific Blue Man-made instrument, while others ("TV Song," "Club Nowhere") display the group's avant-garde pop sensibilities. "Rods and Cones," "Cat Video," and "Opening Mandelbrot" are other standout tracks from Audio, an album that proves the Blue Man Group is as innovative in the studio as it is onstage. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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