Bringing the blue to Buffalo
Blue Man Group’s 'Speechless Tour' highlights industrial music, visual art and absurdity to Buffalo
Buffalonians got a taste of absurdity Saturday night when three blue men stormed the stage at Shea’s.
The Blue Man Group performed at Shea’s Buffalo for its “Speechless Tour” as the four performers -- Meridian, Mike Brown, Steven Wendt and Adam Zuick -- showed audience members why the performance art company has remained popular ever since it was first started in 1987.
The Blue Man Group consists of three bald blue men whose piercing stares emphasize the fact that they never speak a single word. But this doesn’t mean their shows are quiet –– these blue men make up for their lack of voice with intense percussion on unusual instruments.
Even the stage itself overwhelmed the senses. Screens that looked like televisions covered the entire background, and lights strobed, flashed and danced across the stage and audience.
Then, when the audience finally began to adjust, one of the blue men grabbed a giant leaf-blower from off stage to clear a pile of rainbow confetti.
By then, most audience members probably realized that trying to understand this absurd performance was a futile pursuit, and that it would be better to just enjoy the ride.
Bailey Blanchard, Shea’s “Kid Critic,” knew almost nothing about the Blue Man Group before seeing the Friday night performance.
“From the promos, I’m expecting a lot of like paint shooting up and black lights and smoke and strobe lights,” Blanchard said. “Basically, [I’m expecting] like a rave and crazy fun.”
Afterwards, she was pleasantly surprised by this show and appreciated the event’s humor and music.
“Even though they couldn’t talk or wouldn’t talk, they somehow were able to have a conversation on stage. You could tell what they were saying to each other [and] saying to the people,” Blanchard said. “And the paint, the way they used the PVC pipes to create all that sound, and the sound itself was great.”
The Blue Men performed industrial music by drumming with peculiar instruments, some of which were parts of the stage itself. For example, the metal pipes, screens and ladders were used as both practical parts of the set and as the blue men’s drum sets. Drums of various shapes and sizes were also scattered around, and some would light up everytime a drumstick struck them.
During the show, the group assembled and played an instrument that is unique to them: a combination of a trombone and drum, which they called the “drumbone.”
For the finale, the blue men played drums that had wet paint on top, which produced an explosion of vibrant color with each strike.
The show also included audience participation skits. One skit involved one of the men filling a balloon with red paint, and then the three performers used a giant slingshot to fire the balloon at a randomly selected audience member. Before the balloon could be fired though, an alarm sounded and flashing red lights lit the stage as a voice said “You are late.” Spotlights then directed the audience’s attention to late arrivals being led to their designated seats as the alarm continued to point out that they were tardy.
Throughout the show, the set’s ‘90s cyberpunk aesthetic ensured that the audience remained visually entertained at all times. LED tiles and Vanish 8 tiles, which are transparent LED tiles, looked like old television sets lining the walls of the stage, showing various images, videos and effects that flashed on and off.
Meghan Hong, the head electrician for this show, was just as overwhelmed as the audience by the show’s impressive lighting design.
“There’s so much paperwork [even though] I have three other people in my lighting team,” Hong said. “It’s intense, but the end result is worthwhile.”
The North American tour’s next stop will be in Syracuse, New York from March 12-15.
Anastasia Wilds is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @AnastasiaWilds