August 23, 2003
Atlanta Civic Center


I have no idea how to describe what I’ve seen, but I want to see it again! The performance artists known as Blue Man Group have been using “invented instruments” made of tubes and creating otherworldly music for years as part of their strangely wondrous stage show, but for The Complex Rock Tour, they’ve really out done themselves. Part Pink Floyd, part Moby and all Blue Man, the current tour is a must see for fans of arena rock spectacle.


Tracy Bonham:

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Tracy Bonham started off the night with a solo violin version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” that served notice that tonight was indeed a rock show…just a very stylized and particular brand.

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For the rest of her set, she led a trio through moody, dark pop that is not dissimilar to Beck’s recent Sea Change material. Bonham’s voice was sultry and smooth and her songs are deep, powerful meditations that still manage to have a sense of humor.

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Tracy’s only real hit, “Mother, Mother” got the biggest applause, but the new songs were more entrancing.

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Venus Hum:

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Without so much as even a changeover, Venus Hum followed.

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Quirky and powerful, the laptop trio were fronted by a Lisa Loeb / Bjork love child that could knock you down at twenty paces with the strength of her voice.

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Pulsing, melodic and “not like the others,” Venus Hum should do well in the electronica scene.

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Not only is their music so much better than the usually stagnant and static genre, they can rock in concert.

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Blue Man Group:

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Blue Man Group is pretty much impossible to explain to the uninitiated, but loosely, the concept of this show is that the Blue Man has the desire to put on a rock show. Unfortunately, his limited understanding of people requires that he read the rock concert manual to learn how it’s done. In the process, Blue Man Group enlisted the help of a full rock band and they’ve worked on it in rehearsal but now an audience is needed to make it complete. That’s where the sold out crowd comes in. It seems simple enough.

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To the sound of a tribal, techno beat the audience was led through “Rock Concert Movements.” Number one is the head bob. Number two is the fist pump and three is the pogo jump. Blue Man got this and so did we. The crowd hit each movement precisely and in time. The Rock Concert Movement “get a closer look at the audience, ” on the other hand, didn’t really go as intended. Pulling a volunteer from the audience, a closer look was indeed granted, but not as expected. Holding the poor guy in place, the Blue Man trio shoved a camera on a tube down his throat and beamed his insides onto a large video screen over the stage. Luckily, he didn’t fight too much.

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The show then continued with more percussion than a drummer’s wildest dream. Originals like “Time To Start” and “Your Attention” set the mood, but odd covers and bits of covers were everywhere. “Whipit,” “Kashmir” and “Crazy Train” were all referenced with hilarious bits. Openers Tracy Bonham and Venus Hum both had guest-starring roles.

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Tracy sang several numbers with Blue Man Group. “White Rabbit” was mind-boggling and was accented by three dimensional, floating jellyfish. Bonham was also featured on The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” For the climax of the tune, she sawed her violin, whipping the percussionists, the band and the audience into a complete frenzy. Venus Hum came out for a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” that was even more trance inducing than the original. Heavy-house beats were added to the disco groove and distorted guitars put in just the right amount of menace. With all the colorful lights, the entire stage seemed to be pulsing and writhing.


Blue Man Group with Tracy Bonham:

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Throughout the Blue Man performance, it was as if a Peter Max painting had come to life. It was nothing less than stunning. Stick figures moved and actually played instruments. It was a regular occurrence for two dimensions to become three and vice versa. After the “fake ending,” the band and group returned for “What Is Rock.” During this number, the video screens directed us to do each rock concert movement that we had learned during the course of the show. Of course, by this point, they were executed perfectly. The lyrics on the screen read, “Once the song begins, the group is one. Once the song is done, the group is gone.” Guitars wailed, the beat pummeled, singers posed and the bass was in your chest. The audience screamed in unison, fists raised.

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The Complex Rock Tour is parody and tribute. It’s a dead on copy of every rock show on the road but it’s also a completely unique experience. This is the best thing on the road right now. Blue Man Group is the tour of the year.

Chris McKay /

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