Blue Man Group ends three-year tour in Kitchener

Anyone even remotely familiar with performing art troup “Blue Man Group” knows that the experience is utterly incomparable, and their latest performance, at Kitchener Auditorium on Saturday – the last on their recent “Mega Star” tour – was no exception.

The evening opened with a stellar warm-up act by performance painter David Garibaldi, whose painted a startlingly realistic celebrity likenesses to the beat of the music playing in front of the audience.

Managing to be more thrilling and suspenseful than watching someone paint has ever likely been before, Garibaldi’s act proved suitably unconventional yet supremely entertaining to perfectly kick off the night.

Then, while waiting for the Blue Man Group to finish assembling their set, the audience was treated to a welcome quirky series of messages played on the video screens.

These included encouraging audience members to wave around their cell phones when question marks played during the concert, so audience members who had not arrived yet would feel left out of a recent cultural ritual.

Finally, the blue-faced performers themselves hit the stage, promptly amping up the pace and enjoyment level astronomically. The group delivered a unique mix of deadpan physical comedy (a-la Buster Keaton), mime, acrobatics and incredible percussion skills, making use of a unique variety of instruments, as sideways pianos, plastic tubes and other such objects were turned into impromptu drums.

Furthermore, the troup proved equally unafraid to interact with their audience, wandering in between rows of people, bringing cameras intrusively close to audience members’ faces, rooting through spectators’ purses and continually tossing their distinctive orange drumsticks, guitar picks, streamers and a myriad of other props into the audience throughout the show.

However, while watching the three interact in their trademark dumbfounded, confused fashion could easily have provided enough entertainment to sate any audience, the show complimented its stars with astounding production value.

The show was structured under the guise of a “how to be a rock star” DVD, sending up rocker clichés such as head-banging, self-indulgent guitar solos and “rocker horns” (none but the Blue Man Group would have attributed its origin to tragic fictional performer “Floppy the Banjo Playing Clown”).

However, the actual rock band accompanying their instrumental numbers easily provided enough energy for the night to function as a bona fide rock concert, albeit a far more nuanced and comical one.

Even more impressive was the subversive, thought-provoking socio-political commentary the group wormed into their act, with the video accompaniment to their songs often offering “mini-movies” addressing and critiquing notions of technological alienation, corporate amalgamation of individual identity, social masks and even declaring its intent to take the audience on a “Jungian journey into the collective unconscious by use of the shadow metaphor.”

Few rock concerts or even performance art pieces provide such a mix of entertainment and stirring, introspective thematic content.

What truly added an unexpected emotional component to the evening was the closing announcement that the show was the last show of the three year tour, marking a series of tender farewells and acknowledgements amongst the cast and crew, including the unprecedented occurrence of naming the three “Blue Men” by their real names.

A somewhat overwhelming yet peerlessly exhilarating mix of spectacle and substance, the Blue Man Group and their company owned the stage with a dynamic, effortless presence, delivering the most unique concoction of entertainment seen on a stage in ages.