Blue Man Group - Stanley Kubrick Meets David Byrne

This weekend I saw the Blue Man Group here in Toronto. BMG has been around a long time, but they just recently started a Toronto production. This may be old news to many of you, but I suspect if you saw the show in Las Vegas, it will feel more like entertainment than if you see it your local theater, where the whole experience seemed quite intimate, even though these guys never say a word.

As entertainment, it's superb - fun to watch, witty, funny, great music, colorful, inventive - well, you get the idea. And I won't give away the ending - very interactive and participatory. That stuff isn't hard to miss - these guys are good.

What I really liked was just how original the whole thing is. To me, this counts a lot considering how much things are recycled these days, or badly re-made. You don't see much out there that's really different, and also challenges you. I just love the way they explore the relationship between man and machine, and where art fits into a world that is becoming more and more based on technology and automation.

Not since Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey, have I seen something that's really explored this territory in a way that connects with you on a primal level. It's really not much of stretch to switch how the Blue Men react to everyday life with the way the apes reacted to the monolith in beginning of the film. That sense of fascination and wonder - that's what gives the Blue Men their charm - you can't really tell if they are man or machine.

I had to bring David Byrne into this because he also explores some of these themes in his music, and really brings it to life in his music, and a strong sense of rhythm and percussion. I'm a huge Heads fan, and I can see how their music might have evolved into something like what BMG does. It's really primal and edgy and keeps you connected to the ideas that the Blue Men are trying to get across. I especially liked the way they showed how Internet technology is actually increasing urban alienation rather than bringing us all together.

On the positive side, the central message for me is that BMG is showing us their vision of how to combine music and art with technology, and they're doing it in an original way that is really good. So, technology can serve a higher purpose than just making our lives more efficient, but it's hard as hell to do. That's what I liked most about BMG. It can be done, and you don't have to rely on everything that's come before.

Isn't that what we're trying to do with IP communications? Right - building a new communications network that is simply better for the age we live in - much like how the telephone displaced the telegraph. That seems appropriate to say given how effectively the Internet was used this weekend to broadcast all the Live8 concerts.

If you want to see what David Byrne is up to these days, and how he sees the role of art evolving in our global village, check out his Journal - it's really great. And while you're there, he's got a very cool Internet radio station. I think he's a great visionary for where art and technology meet and can make the world a better place.

Ok, so where's the VoIP tie-in? Well, this one's a stretch, but anyone who has seen the Herding Cats perform at Jeff Pulver's VON events will know where I'm coming from. Their showstopper is a killer version of Whole Lotta Love. This is one of those cases where the cover version really is as good as or better than original. I've certainly got my fave examples - but we'll have to take that conversation offline - that's another topic! Anyhow, the Cats version is really great, and at one point, their drummer, Jon, pours water onto his drums, and if you've seen the show, you know just how cool the effect is when he pounds away, and the water shoots up like a volcano.

BMG does this too, but with different colors of paint, and the effect is even more spectacular, and of course, much more theatrical. So, for the handful of us who have seen BMG and the Cats, you can't help but make the connection. Anybody out there know who actually came up with the idea? Maybe it was neither of them. Whatever - it's a great effect.