Blue Man Group defies easy classification. Are they musicians? Performance artists? Comics? Space aliens? As anyone who has seen their unique stage show knows, this eccentric trio of stoic blue faces touches on a number of art forms, not the least of which is a commitment to pure spectacle. How to Be a Megastar Live!, which delivers a CD and DVD of Blue Man Group's 2006-2007 concert tour of the same name, captures much of what makes this outfit so entertaining.
Considering Blue Man Group is chiefly an act renowned for visual flair, the real draw here is the DVD chronicling a 2007 performance of theirs American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. The show, which clocks in just shy of 90 minutes, spotlights the group's trademark inventiveness, audience interaction and quirky humor.
Featuring a sly bit of self-reflexivity, the Megastar tour's central conceit surrounds BMG following an instruction manual about how to be a rock star. The blue men ostensibly use an audience member's credit card to order the manual, which a TV infomercial -- displayed behind the band on a huge monitor -- promises will lead to rock stardom. In seconds, the manual arrives on stage via a Federal Express carrier. The booklet's how-to steps, read aloud by a booming voiceover narrator, shuffle through a litany of rock clichés and conventions (examples: Rock concert manual #5 - "Raise your hands in the air like you just don't care), which the trio then tackles in song and performance/
The blue men -- Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink -- are consummate showmen throughout, whether drumming magnificently on PVC pipes or dancing in electrifyingly colorful glow-in-the-dark suites. As is de rigueur with BMG concerts, there is plenty of audience participation. Paint and food is splattered on the front rows in ample supply. It's an entertaining shtick, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I had wandered into a cult I didn't quite "get." Prior to this concert DVD, my greatest familiarity with Blue Man Group was with the late great TV series Arrested Development and the delusional determination of David Cross' character, Tobias, to be a BMG understudy. Now, that was funny.
In contrast, I found How to Be a Megastar Live! intermittently amusing. Two fake infomercials starring Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen are not quite as clever as they ought to be, and the percussion-heavy music is largely homogenous. Thankfully, the lulls are forgiven with some genuine showstopper moment, especially BMG's soaring cover of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and the Who's "Baba O'Riley."
Overall, How to Be a Megastar Live! does an impressive job delivering on the concert's energy and pulse. Cameras are seemingly everywhere, from sweeping crane shots to handhelds that follow the blue men into the audience. It's solid craftsmanship, albeit one easier to admire than love.
The music and sketch lineup is as follows:
Rock Manual Infomercial
Time to Start
Up to the Roof
Floppie the Banjo Clown
Shirts and Hats
Rock Box Infomercial
One of These Days
Shadows Part 2
I Feel Love
Rock and Go
Introducing the Band
What Is Rock
Shot in high-def and presented in widescreen anamorphic 1.78:1, How to Be a Megastar Live! boasts stunning quality, with sharp lines and luminous colors. There are no noticeable defects such as edge enhancement or artifacts. All in all, it's an impressive display.
Viewers can choose between 2-channel Stereo or 5.1 Surround. The latter is superior, but both are of excellent quality. The audio is rich and clear, with no distortion or drop-out.
For all practical purposes, the accompanying CD is something of an extra, since there is no mistaking the main attraction here. As for the DVD itself, the bonus material is worthwhile. Inside the Tube: Blue Man Group Founders Discuss the History of Blue Man is a 38-minute mini-doc excerpted from a 2006 PBS documentary. It's a kick to see the blue men sans makeup discussing how their initial idea was to incorporate vaudeville and technology for a sort of "whacked-out science fair."
Mono Makes a Plea: Save the TVs Campaign kicks off with Fred Armisen doing a spot-on Bono impersonation before we move on to a kooky and fun Blue Man Group sketch involving TV monitors. The clip clocks in just shy of seven minutes. Rounding things out is a music video for "I Feel Love" (3:33).
Blue Man Group partisans will love How to Be a Megastar Live! , a solid concert movie of one of the most innovative acts around. The uninitiated might be less astounded, but the DVD will still be of interest for people wondering what all the fuss is about.