This summer marks the first headlining tour from Blue Man Group, the music/performance art phenomenon that has companies in Boston, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas. But unlike those legit-leaning shows — which emphasize surrealist, mimed comedy, accompanied by percussive elements and audience-performer interaction — this tour is ostensibly to promote a new rock album, “The Complex” (Lava/Blue Man), which brings a series of contradictions to a show that’s a visual delight but leaves something to be desired musically.
The Blue Men don’t leave behind the stunts that make their stage shows so spectacular, and the way they make the rock concert experience work for them is typical of the unchecked creativity the group has demonstrated through the years.
Toward the beginning of the show, on a large screen, a faceless voice explains “Rock Concert Movement #1: The Basic Head Bob” while an outlined man demonstrates. “Ready Go,” the sign implores, and then all lights are on the audience, stunned at first but then ready to comply, eventually nodding heads in simultaneous agreement.
It’s an interactive experience like this that make the Blue Man Group’s shows such a treat, and when the Blue Men are playing with the audience — whether in straight interaction or with a light show that includes light-saber fights and free-floating fluorescent insects — the pure joy of their performance shines through.
But when the Blue Men let the music do the talking, the percussion-heavy mix gets dull, no matter how crushingly heavy it’s played. The album’s “Matrix”-like “What Is Reality?” themes don’t explore anything Radiohead hasn’t already covered, and many of the songs sound like outtakes from a second-rate Peter Gabriel album. If the Blue Man Group is asking to be taken seriously as a rock act, its creators may want to go back to the drawing board, but if what they expected is an audience willing to participate enthusiastically in “Rock Concert Movement #3: The Up and Down Jumping Motion,” then they’ve succeeded, beautifully.