Oakland Shows Blue Man Group Its “O Face”

Strong enough for a man, but pH-balanced for a Blue Man Credits: David Downs

    Live: Blue Man Group + Bay Area’s Mike Relm
    Date: Saturday, February 10
    Opener: Mike Relm
    Better than: renting twelve videos from Blockbuster for the same $60
    Rating: A medium-size minivan (on a scale of Prius to Hummer)

Nobody quite knows exactly what the 25-year-old multimillion dollar-a-year performers Blue Man Group do. You have to see the show to understand it, because when you talk about it, you inevitably sound retarded.

Listen to opener DJ Mike Relm take a stab at it last week in the Express“A DJ’s Blue Period”:

“They’re hard to describe – they have the mime thing going on, the music going on, almost got a circus act going on, they got science. We were talking exploratoriums, and I was like, ‘Wow. That is really exploratorium-ish,’ ’cause it’s got the lights and the rock music. A lot of their audience-participation cues are visual. I think it works great ’cause I do the same thing.”

Indeed, longtime Bay Area DJ Relm proved a logical complement to the multimedia performance art of Blue Man Group Saturday night at the Oakland Arena, even if more than half of his set went directly over the audience’s silver-streaked heads.

Relm’s act largely consists of making scratching noises over music and video, combining a series of songs and clips into “bits” that he’s recombined and reformulated over the years. The humorous video bits work better than the scratchy stuff. Office Space‘s “I’m Gonna Show Her My ‘Oh’ Face” got a lot bigger audience laughs than scratch-heavy bits like Led Zeppelin. But maybe the audience wasn’t clapping because they were too busy staring at the wall-size video screens of Relm’s blurring hands scratching so fast the tables started to smoke.

Grandmas from Orinda and little kids from Danville didn’t know exactly what they were seeing with Relm, and though they couldn’t prove the Devil was directly involved, it was something they’d never seen before so it might as well have been pure Evil. Relm left to muted applause unsuited for his talents, but, hey, people were there for something weird they could understand; like three mute dudes wrapped in blue latex and covered with blue greasepaint. Yeah.

Blue Man Group made a big entrance with their six percussionists firing on all cylinders and for those who’ve been there before — yeah, they did the wet drums thing, they played the PVC pipes, they did parts of the Rock Manual, and yes, they caught the marshmallows (still a crowd favorite). But this time the “How to Be Megastar Tour 2.0” used a more direct narrative. Blue Man Group physically orders a rock manual via infomercial.

The Manual is a DVD featuring a sleazy record producer type and an airhead blonde who walk Blue Man Group through the appropriate rock clichés for forming a band: the use of image over substance (Maldroid?); feigning humility to disguise a huge ego (Neil Young?); the pet cause (uh, every fucking band on this warming Earth).

Megastar 2.0 builds on their staple rock star guide while leaving in the head-bobbing, fist-pumping, pogoing, and of course, dancing with one leg pulled back behind your head. Blue Man Group’s cover of “I Feel Love” remains epic, as does its closer.

And if you didn’t know, this is the perfect show to bring your grandma, your five-year-old, and your teenage son in his Misfits T-shirt. Given the bright lights, drums, and smoke, any organism above amphibian on the evolutionary scale would be transfixed by this type of input.

Previous experience: Blue Man Group at Coachella, Mike Relm on YouTube.
Personal bias: I wrote about Relm last week and have a special place in my heart for him because we’re roughly the same age and think Arrested Development is too good for TV.
Random quote of the night: “Anything will do, so long as you mask your true self with something more animated and electrifying.”

WATCH: Mike Relm on YouTube

Blue Man Opener

Bad Acid Trip Blue Men

DOWNLOAD THIS: Blue Man Group – “I Feel Love”

DOWNLOAD THIS: Mike Relm – “Relm and Josie”