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Audience participation real fun of pumped-up Recycled Percussion

Are they tunes for our times, these guys beating on trash cans instead of warming their hands over them? (Brutha can ya spare a ten-spot?)

Or is this the new shape of entertainment? If you want to sell a ticket to people who play Rock Band and send around pictures of themselves all day, you can’t expect them to just watch a show. You have to let them be in it.

Choose your metaphor for Recycled Percussion. Either way, the group lives up to its name, repurposing some of the staging from the Tropicana’s lofty old "Folies Bergere" for the "junk rock" of four guys who beat on buckets and other junkyard contraptions.

Spray-coat an extra layer of irony with the fact that this is the second and — seriously — much grander version of a title that tried unsuccessfully to play the MGM Grand’s Studio 54 in diminished circumstances last September.

The pumped-up version on the big stage still comes off like budget Blue Man, or makes you long for the royal-flush days of 2007 when "Stomp" had the means to decorate the whole Planet Hollywood theater with old hubcaps.

Recycled is at least fun and frequently funny. It no longer rides solely on the gimmick of letting the audience bang along on pots and pans issued at the door. We still do, just not for the whole show.

The opener establishes both the thinness of the whole endeavor and its saving-grace wit. A boombox on a bare stage plays snippets of the historic "I have a dream" and "One small step for man …" speeches, before giving way to the immortal "Oh mama …" chant of the beloved Styx classic "Renegade."

Then, lowered down from above on a drum wall are the four Percussionists, lying flat on their backs, astronaut-style, as they pound the vertical bric-a-brac to the Stygian wonder. But, yes, they have to do this for the entire tune. How could they get up and leave?

And yet, this is the story of the show even when it’s more mobile: good ideas, usually stretched a bit too thin or long. There’s a lot of drumming and much throwing and catching of drumsticks to flurries of sound from guitarist Jim Magoon and DJ Todd Griffin.

At one point, Justin Spencer (the group’s founder) and Ryan Vezina drum all the way up the steps of tall folding ladders, then simultaneously leap down, giving the steps a good rake on the way to the floor.

Studio 54 didn’t give the quartet room to create percussive showers of sparks with power tools, or space for a van that splits in half to allow, yes, another drum duet.

But the real fun is in the audience participation. First, one victim is pulled up to "audition." Later, a whole crop of ticket-holders head up for a last-person-standing showdown of skills, comically orchestrated by Spencer.

And of course, everyone gets in on the act with their sticks and pans, pounding along to a clever video montage of song snippets arranged by category: "Guy or Girl?" (Boy George, Prince), "One-Hit Wonders" ("Eye of the Tiger," "My Sharona"), etc.

Of course those are the best parts! Because of us! We rock! At least it gets us out of the house and momentarily replaces that smart phone in our hand with a drumstick.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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