Say you're one of the world's foremost performance-art troupes and one of the most visually striking ensembles to hit a stage in the past decade. What's the next step? For Blue Man Group, it's an audio project called The Complex, a percussion-heavy document of an oft-neglected aspect of the company. "The music has always been a part of the show," explains Eric Gebow, a Blue Man on the national tour, which comes to Cleveland this week. "But I think the [stage] show takes the record to a whole other level. It carries through what the songs are getting at."
With a revolving assemblage of 30 Blue Men and 50 musicians, the group has wowed New York and Las Vegas audiences for more than 10 years. Now it's on the road for the first time. "It's a very visual show," Gebow says. "It's such a big learning process for us. We're throwing ourselves into this rock-and-roll world, which has always been an element of the theatrical shows."
While it's somewhat of an understatement to say that something is lost in the translation from stage to stereo, The Complex's instrumental tracks -- with their jittery rhythms and snapping percussive hits -- hint at the power of the stage show. The album's guest singers range from tolerable (Dave Matthews) to annoying (Esthero). Complex warblers Tracy Bonham and Venus Hum are on the road with Blue Man.
"This [tour] is something different for us," Gebow says. "We're setting up and tearing down this big production every night. What's interesting, exciting, and scary at the same time is that we're getting people at the show who are familiar with the theatrical shows. Then we have a group of people who really don't know Blue Man. You can really feel the mix of different expectations." Blue Man Group is at the CSU Convocation Center (2000 Prospect Avenue) at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $32.50 and $42.50, available by calling 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Jesse Harris & the Ferdinandos have made four albums, but nobody knew about them until Norah Jones recorded Harris's "Don't Know Why." Their latest, The Secret Sun, features the same hushed and intimate sound that guided Jones's Come Away With Me to a Grammy sweep. (Harris, who wrote five of Come Away's songs and played guitar on it, also won for Song of the Year.) It's a little jazzy, a little folky, a little bit country, and totally comforting. Jesse Harris & the Ferdinandos are at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road) at 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $8; call 216-383-1124. -- Michael Gallucci
Soaking Up Sheryl
Because Sheryl Crow is so good at making summer singles -- "All I Wanna Do" in 1994, "Soak Up the Sun" last year -- the outdoor setting for her Sunday show oughta work in her favor. She's an old-fashioned classic rocker at heart, writing songs about life's most essential things -- namely, love and fun -- and singing them like they're the most important things in her world. She's a bit overexposed these days, singing duets with anyone who asks, but her catalog is a hearty one. Crow plays Cain Park (Superior Avenue and Lee Road in Cleveland Heights) at 8 p.m. Singer-songwriter Joe Firstman opens. Tickets are $46 to $49.50. Call 216-241-5555 for more information. -- Michael Gallucci
Made in Brazil
Dance Brazil (right) has been called martial arts with an African beat. The 26-year-old troupe spreads an Afro-Brazilian cultural message through a series of lively dance moves set to African music. Last year, it showcased a traditional stick dance in Sugar Cane Fields: Male dancers flaunted their agility by swinging machetes, while women chanted in African dialects. Founder Jelon Vieira says the group fuses aspects of many cultures, including hip-hop. Dance Brazil performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Cain Park, at the corner of Superior and Lee roads in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $14 to $21. Call 216-241-5555 for more information. -- Cris Glaser