Review: How To Be A Megastar DVD

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 7, 2008, 5:04 PM | comments: 2

I've been meaning to write a review of this for awhile, so here it is...

When Blue Man Group created a touring rock concert with The Complex, they recorded and released a DVD. It was, at best, a tease to get you to see the stage shows, since the tour ended about the same time. The DVD was horribly flawed. It wasn't mastered correctly as anamorphic widescreen, but rather it was letterboxed. The audio mix was questionable. There were visible compression artifacts. The exposure during dark parts of the show was poor, and they tried to compensate with bad video effects. The editing was terrible too, with visuals not matching audio, and countless shots of a lame crowd. This new DVD corrects all of that.

When the How To Be A Megastar tour launched three years later, the show had been heavily tweaked. Through five legs of the tour, changes were made at least three times, and various performers came and went. The last iteration of the tour is what's represented on this DVD (and CD), and it's easily the tightest version of it.

Almost the entire show is represented, with a lively crowd and a great performance by the excellent band. The arena experience is captured with a lot of great wide shots, including a camera in the "crappy seats," to give you an idea of how "big" the show feels. The scope is much bigger than the fixed theatrical shows, though many of the same comedic bits are shared.

The video clips for the "Megastar" manual are included here, played by Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live fame, as well as the Floppie the Banjo Clown clips.

Peter Moore is the male vocalist for the show. He sang on several of the recorded tracks for The Complex, and on the original tour. The guy is all-pro and has a bit of a rockstar quality. He left the tour shortly after this show to pursue a solo record. Adrian Hartley is the female vocalist, who replaced Tracy Bonham during one of the interim tour legs. She gets a lot of crap for little reason other than not being Bonham, but she's capable on most of the songs. "I Feel Love" was delivered on The Complex tour (and recording) with Annette Strean from Venus Hum (who also opened on that tour), and admittedly it's hard to stack up against her pipes. The absence of Bonham also means that they have no violinist for "Baba O'Riley," but I maintain that it's just different, not better or worse.

As I said, the music is a lot tighter throughout the show. Where we were once left with just the Blue Man Voiceover guy, the band plays. Several pieces from the theatrical show are therefore worked in to the show, and it flows more like a Top 40 radio station than an orchestra concert with an intermission. It keeps the energy level up. We get some fresh arrangements on a number of songs as well, and Moore and Hartley complement each other well. "Sing Along" in particular is given a Mexican feel (if Mexican music used air poles), complete with the horn section from a Mariachi band. Newer pieces like the adaptation of the wire man routine from the stage shows, in this case "Light Suits," drive toward the fake ending, and the newer song "Rock and Go" really capture the old fashioned rock concert finale the way few "real" rock concerts do.

The special features include the original "I Fell Love" (with Strean from Venus Hum) and a video piece that was dropped mid-tour, with Armisen assuming the role of "Mono" with a guitarist called "The Side" (like U2, get it?). He makes his plea for saving old CRT TV's. It's followed by the TV routine made famous in the stage shows.

They've also included the documentary "Inside The Tube" from PBS. It has been edited slightly for the DVD. For example, the original program had a bit where they showed video for the light suits, something they were "working on," but has since been worked into this tour and also some of the stage shows. The biggest benefit here is that you don't have to sit through half-hour intermissions of PBS asking for money.

The CD is really the icing on the cake. Just as the iTunes-only release of the stage show from The Venetian, you get an appreciation for how good the band is live. My only complaint is that seem to mix the giant bass drum too low, which is odd because the show is so much about percussion.

Overall, this is the video that I think Blue Man Group fans have been waiting for, for a long time. My hope is that it's also a turning point, because much of this material has been around now for a lot of years, and I think fans are dying for something new. What we've seen to this point has been more of an evolution than anything else. At this point, they need something new.


Jake, April 8, 2008, 3:57 AM #

Good review, but I often wonder how many times is BM going to release the same music repackaged with a twist... do you know what I mean?

tigellinus, April 8, 2008, 5:29 PM #

As someone who's also been interested in BMG, but whose only exposure are some songs from iTunes and going to the stage show in Vegas, but with an experience (or lack thereof) very similar to that in the movie Knocked Up, that review has just sold me on the DVD and CD!!

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