Title: Blue Man Group – How to be a Megastar LIVE! (DVD and CD Combo)
Rated: Not Rated
Screen format: Anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1
Year first released: NA (previously aired on HDNET)
DVD released: April 1, 2008
Director: Hank Lena
Starring: The Blue Man Group and their backing rock band
Sound Formats: Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 (Careful, it defaults to stereo!)
Length: 150 minutes DVD, ~70 minutes CD (not listed and I haven’t timed it)
Subtitles: NA that I can tell
The plot, such as it is, is hard to characterize and score for this disk. On one hand, it’s a document of a live concert tour and usually I wouldn’t need to score it as they generally don’t HAVE a plot. On the other hand, this IS the Blue Man Group, an eccentric group of performers who have grown from modest roots of stage shows featuring an eclectic mix of tribal drumming with technological wizardry into an enormous stage show that rivals Cirque du Soleil in scope and artistry. So, “what is a Blue Man?” you might ask. According to the group founders during the excellent accompanying extras, the blue faced ones are not wearing masks, but represent the performers personas when all accompanying fears, inhibitions and other baggage are stripped away, leaving curious and artistic cores. And their art is mostly drumming, but that drumming leads to other artistry as well.
In “How to be a Megastar” the blue ones have happened upon a magical guidebook authored by the lesser brother of Ron Popiel, Rod, which promises to teach them everything they need to know to become great rock concert performers. By putting their own spin on the guide’s teachings, the group both skewers the rich history of rock and embraces it fully. Viewers will learn all of the signature moves that make the rockin’ world go ‘round, and are encouraged to dance along with the beats. More than dancing tho, BMG takes audience participation to a whole new level that must be seen to be believed. When they tell you they really take a look into their audience, believe them!
Megastar is also essentially a ‘Best of’ of previous Blue Man experiences as evidenced by the aforementioned “Making Of”, but also puts new twists on these old numbers. Particularly interesting is the integration of segments from The Complex, which is one of Blue Man Group’s darkest works, and the themes of that album deal with loneliness, separation, identity and what life is like without direction. That they are able to make this work as a parable for breaking out of that shell and into greatness, or bliss as they call it, really rocks, pardon the pun.
While I’ve never actually been to a BMG show before I’ve been following them since they first popped up on my radar in one of the first issues from Wired magazine, who reviewed their original off-Broadway show and raved about it. Since then I’ve watched a few of their shows on disk and of course they have descended into popular culture from things like their Intel commercials. Despite the fact that the original performers are no longer the ones on stage, and despite their huge growth, I think that they have remained true to the qualities that caused them to explode in popularity and this particular show is probably the most accessible entry for a newbie. The concept of rock stardom perfectly matches the group and also parallels their success but gives them the opportunity to not let that success go to their blue painted heads.
Sound Quality: 4/5
First, a big warning, this DVD defaults to stereo. It’s really good stereo tho and the first few songs aren’t as dramatic as the rest of the disk and I didn’t notice till quite a ways in. The full 5.1 is a pretty tasty mix, putting the listener in the middle of the audience rather than in the middle of the stage, which is a bit disconcerting at first but mostly works.
Describing the music is also difficult, but the closest I could probably get is by imagining the bastard child of a Meatloaf concert paired with the cast of ‘Stomp’ with Phillip Glass as the midwife and Kiss as the godfather, and perhaps The Mummenschanz and Vaudeville as the adoring grandparents. It’s actually better than that probably sounds, but if you aren’t a fan of percussion items used as lead instruments it might not be your speed. If you are a big ‘event’ fan like Cirque or any similar enormous Vegas style show, then BMG has a lot to offer you.
As the music is percussion focused bass is critical and mostly well handled, but there is a huge difference between the bass on the discrete 5.1 mix and the stereo version. The 5.1 is generally more punchy and detailed but having listened to the first few tracks in stereo I can say that there are some points where I found that more natural. Both versions sound great however, and I really found myself grooving along to the beats, enough so that I’ve listened to the majority of the included CD (more on that in the extras below) a few times, and while there is no comparison between a fully stocked 5.1 theater and the factory audio of my truck, I found a lot to like there too. While most of the music is original to the group, there a few cover songs mixed in that are done up in BMG fashion, including a killer reimagining of The Who’s Baba O’Rielly.
Visual Quality: 3/5
Visually however this disk is a bit of a miss. I’m led to believe that this version is a downsampled edit of the high definition filming done by HDNET, and the original looks outstanding (and is headed to BluRay soon). I was a bit disappointed in the amount of detail that this version captured, having seen other recent concerts in high def, and this version seemed no better than any mid 90s vintage tour film. Perhaps I expect too much, but the dark theater surrounding the performers just seemed entirely too claustrophobic, and even the non anamorphic file footage in the making of segment seemed more lively. Detail level and colors seem spot on, but it felt like there was just a bit too much contrast.
Extra Features: 4/5
I’ve already mentioned the “Making of” extra several times, and this is thoroughly excellent despite being in stereo and non-anamorphic. This segment is almost as long as the film itself and allows the original three members to talk about the genesis of the group from their off-Broadway days to their Vegas showcase to the recent world tour where this DVD was filmed. Earlier incarnations of many of the Megastar tracks are shown and its quite amazing to see the changes, yet the fact that the characters seem so true to the original vision. I’ve also previously mentioned the fact that the entire soundtrack album is enclosed in the pack which is an amazingly smart move and I wonder why nobody has thought to do this prior. And then I remembered a blog post from Mark Cuban where he noted that he wanted to start doing this, and I wonder about the HDNet connection. Regardless of who came up with the idea, it’s brilliant and I hope this happens more in the future. This disk also includes a music video for the brilliant remake of Donna Sommers’ “I feel love” which proves that the BMGs can do Disco as well as Rock. Finally the last extra starts off as a poorly conceived dig at Bono and the Edge’s charity work, then transitions into a kind of Easter egg of a segment, so I won’t ruin that surprise.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Blue Man Group may be hard to describe and might be too loud for your grandma, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief and get into a fantasy rock concert with pounding drums and techno marvels, this disk is the perfect place to jump in and catch up with all that the group has to offer. The thoughtful addition of the soundtrack on CD is just more evidence of the great value that is provided here.