Respect for elders, even with blue heads

In its new show, the Blue Man Group reminds us how much technology, starting with our phones, has changed our lives since 2000.

Offstage, the evolution of the Blue Man’s place on the Strip is less obvious, but no less dramatic.

In February 2000, co-founder Chris Wink talked of the crossroads that led his company to a Las Vegas still shedding its rhinestone image. Penn and Teller had told them Vegas “isn’t as bad as it used to be.”

But it was a tricky decision. “(W)e enjoy a certain amount of credibility in the underground. … You don’t want to come here and have that be undermined,” Wink noted then.

Fast-forward a few generations of iPods and 12 years of Blue Man in Vegas. The more relevant question surrounding the new Monte Carlo show now: Are the Blue Men too old to compete with the clubs?

“Because we’ve been doing this kind of thing a long time, we don’t want to be left in the dust” of a city that hosts the Electric Daisy Carnival, Wink says.

“We say that we’re the show that has to change to stay the same,” co-founder Phil Stanton agrees. “I think we always have to be looking at the way we live.”

“It’s not just Vegas now. There’s sort of a world that got caught up and more sophisticated,” Wink says.

“It’s harder and harder in today’s world to surprise people. Everyone’s seen everything,” he adds. “We can’t shock you with our blue heads anymore. … You need to work harder just to get people to pay attention.”

The Blue Man Group may be facing a new challenge, but it doesn’t feel the need to play a young person’s game.

At one point, Wink says he balked at calling attention to the group’s longevity in publicity materials. But now, “we’re comfortable with our role.”

“It’s not our role anymore to be like we were 20 years ago in the East Village, to be the forerunners,” he says. Now, the Blue Man’s place is in the middle. “We can get the mainstream into the cool world a little, but get the so-called cool world out of the clubs and into a theater.

“And that’s our role. That’s the role of an elder.”

The new Blue Man show ends with the crowd on its feet, dodging confetti and giant exercise balls, a taste of the club experience for those who aren’t “going to be at Electric Daisy at 3 in the morning,” Wink says.

Vegas may be siding up along the dividing lines of clubs versus shows. But Stanton says the Blue Man finale is a bit of a bridge: “a symbolic moment where we say no matter how sophisticated our technology gets, we all like to be together.”

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

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