Blue Man Group wsg/ Tracy Bonham & Venus Hum
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI – Monday July 22nd)
Watching Tracy as she quietly, and completely unannounced makes her way to the centralized mic stand, it’s hard to envision the same girl that back in ’96 sang like a demented Sheryl Crow on the debut single, ’Mother Mother’! But, with all the dark make-up and moody stares gone, she’s simply just this down to earth, dress-wearing singer that has come to entertain us tonight.
Starting with an acoustic version of Zeppelin’s ’Black Dog’ she then fairly breezes through the previously-mentioned old hit single and the track ’Naked’. Supported by two other musicians, Tracy then gets a wolf whistle to which she then dedicates the song ’Something Beautiful’ to whence it came! The new track ’Dogone Sun’ was sung for the very first time (”That wasn’t so bad”), before ’All Thumbs’ and ’Eyes’ (”This is the first song of my new EP”) are brought to the fore.
”Thanks for coming out early tonight,” she says to the crowd. ”and this is our last song”. ’30 Seconds’ from her debut album The Burden of Being Upright was then sung and as she waved goodbye, the classically-trained violinist was greeted with a hearty response from the third-full arena.
With not more than five minute separating them, Venus Hum came straight out and collectively took over from where Tracy Bonham’s warm spot was still … warm! ”Hello,” chimes vocalist Annette Strean. ”We’re Venus Hum and this is our first single, ‘The Bells’. Nashville-created Venus Hum, quite possibly the modern-day answer to the electronic dance acts of the 80s, then stroll forward with songs such as the brilliantly-poppy ’Montana’ (”We’re from Nashville, but I’m from Montana originally which is the name of this song!”), ‘Bella Luna’ (which is sung with Bjork in mind), the jarring ’Sonic Boom’ and the beautiful ’Hummingbirds’.
As tiny images are projected upon the black screen backdrop, Annette has taken off her shoes and decided to make stage movement a thing of the past! Instead putting her energies into hip gyrations galore, the sassy young thing with the Lisa Loeb glasses takes all the applause in her delicate stride. ’Thank you all very much for coming out to see us tonight. It is an honor to be out with the Blue Man Group. This is our last song.” ’Soul Sloshing’ is their final track and as the pumping 80s beats final fade out, their finale is upon us.
Watching the Blue Man Group live, you get one of two differing shows each time. One is their Vegas-style theatrical show, and the other is their all-out rock show. Tonight, we got a full-on dose of the latter in all its glory! As the lights go down, the stage is set with a bunch of pipes criss-crossed in center-stage and a huge rock band set-up (complete with four sets of drums and drummers!) going up the staircase behind them. To rapturous applause, the three Blue Men come out on stage and begin their usual ‘What the f**k is going on here then?!’ stage expressions and such. Rock Movements of various numbers and descriptions (‘Fist Punch’ and such) are screened to the audience with a multitude bodily movements and hammering on the aforementioned pipes.
But, it’s when we get to the Rock Movement which is ‘Bring A Guest Vocalist Out On Stage’ that we finally hit the first real rock portion of the night. Bringing out a ’harder-looking’ Tracy Bonham, she aids the guys in the band with the song ’Rise Above’ as the four drummers make the twin-drumming of Adam & The Ants look decidedly tame! The three Blue Men then go through routines such as the ‘Cellphone’, and ‘Your Attention Please’, a constantly running back drop projection of information is broadcast to the enthralled masses. But it’s when they hit their drums and the colored paint begins to fly that the Blue Man Group finally show one of their trademarks!
Paying musical tribute to Devo (’Whip It’), Ozzy (’Crazy Train’), Zeppelin, and Jefferson Airplane (’White Rabbit’ - with Bonham back on lead vocals), the guys and their backing band turned the tempo up a few notches. Huge, long, glow sticks are musically swung about the stage and the male singer from the band is brought forward to sing Rock Concert Movement #23 – Getting The Audience To Sing Along! #27 is ‘Saying Hello To The People In The Cheap Seats’ (where they leave the stage to do just that!), but then they take it one step further by inviting a male and female back to the stage for some funky dance lessons (#28)! The male runs off ahead of time!
Heading into the show’s final 20 minutes and the pace hasn’t let up once. In fact, it took it up a notch by bringing back the long musical ‘swish’ sticks and having the ‘character’ (or so it seemed!) from the AOL ads (outlined in green) split into six and perform a musical number that was visually out of this world! It was a sight to behold and an incredible one at that. And as a constant projected image of a man hiding behind a never-ending set of masks, running down empty corridors, getting nowhere fast is broadcast to us, the stage glows orange and the three Blue Men come front stage with welding masks on. Removing them, they begin to touch each others faces in an exploratory manner before #63 ‘Bring On Venus Hum’ is spoken and a rendition (that includes Tracy Bonham) of Donna Summer’s ’I Feel Love’ is sung that would have blown away anybody at Studio 54 back in the day! Ending with #78, ‘The Fake Ending,’ they come back for the encore instrumental ’Exhibit 13’, before donning individual tube-bashing harnesses and the band – with Tracy still singing away – break into a rousing rendition of The Who’s ’Teenage Wasteland’ complete with confetti fired out of tubes! Then, #48 – ‘A Fan Introduces The Band’ – happens and then, finally, it’s all over!
Review and Photos by Russell A. Trunk