A couple weeks ago I made a sojourn to central New York to visit some friends and see something I was having a hard time imagining: a David Blaine stage show.
I've been a big fan of David Blaine since his earliest specials and was a defender of his back in the day on my old blog. This is back when it was cool to bash Blaine. "I'm sorry," people would say, "there's just nothing magical about standing in a block of ice for three days." Then they'd show you their 1 in 4 multiple out trick because they're such astute arbiters of what is magical.
More recently I got to exchange some emails and phone calls with him when he was working on one of my effects for potential inclusion in his most recent tv special.
Other than that, the only other time our paths (somewhat) crossed was in 2008 at some concert when he performed Daniel Garcia's Fraud for the girl I was dating at the time. Then he hit on her and asked for her phone number. I wasn't there but her friend was texting me a play-by-play with pictures the whole time. This is a true story. Sorry Blaine, I'd already spoiled her with a bunch of dumb tricks so yours had little effect on her. You got turned down by a magic blogger's girlfriend. Deal with it. (Somehow I think you're over it and have dried your tears on some supermodel's labia in the meantime.)
The show took place on a rainy night in Syracuse, New York. I got drenched because I don't like using an umbrella because I feel like we should have a better way of keeping water off of us in the year 2017. Seriously? This is the best we have? A little tarp on a stick you hold over your head? We don't have something that uses lasers or some shit? No thanks, world, I won't play your dumb umbrella game. So yeah, I got soaked.
The first part of the show was a mish-mash of effects with no real theme to them. There was a PK touches effect, card to mouth (with his mouth sewn shut), a russian roulette effect, and an effect where a girl from the audience chose the one missing piece from a puzzle out of 100s of potential choices.
There was a large woman of color behind me who was very engaged in the show and commenting on everything and she busted him on the equivoque in the puzzle routine. "What does he mean, 'hand me a piece'? He just gonna do with that piece what he like." I'm telling you, that technique is more transparent than you think unless done in the third-wave style (where the outcome is given to the person before their selection). But I'll stop beating that drum.
Asi Wind then took the stage for about 20 minutes and performed a number of strong mental effects. I think his energy and presentation style is different enough from Blaine's that it does feel like a change of pace in the show even though I feel like any one of his tricks would have fit in with Blaine's material in the first chunk of the show. So it wasn't like, "I'm the magician and now I'm going to bring out the juggler," or even, "I'm the illusionist and now I'm going to bring out the close-up guy." It was, "I've been performing a lot of parlor-style magic/mentalism and now here's another guy to perform some parlor-style magic/mentalism." But, as I said, it still worked.
When David returned we got into the "stunts" part of the show. This, to me, was the most interesting part of the evening because it was so unlike anything I'd ever seen in a theater. It really felt like what I imagine it would be like seeing Houdini or an act of that style in the late 1800s, early 1900s. You know how you'll read those books about Houdini and it will say, "He was put in the handcuffs and sat behind a screen with only his head exposed as he attempted to escape for the next 25 minutes while the orchestra played." And you think what a bunch of goons everyone used to be. Just sitting there watching nothing happen. But there I was on that night as a captivated theater watched Blaine drink water for 3 minutes. Or hold his breath for 10 minutes.
The first stunt was the one where he swallows gallons of water into his stomach and then shoots it all out in a stream to put out a fire. Projectile vomiting as art might be hard to wrap your head around but it really was pretty fascinating. Fascinating on two levels for me. Seeing the act itself was interesting, but watching a full theater audience watch the act was even more so.
Blaine then did the stunt where he turns his body into a "living aquarium." Except... on this night... living was not really the best description. After what seemed to be a genuinely difficult attempt at regurgitation, Blaine finally did bring a frog up out of his stomach where its lifeless corpse plopped out of his lips into a wine glass.
"Oh," the woman behind me said, "he dead."
That frog was not moving. David poked at it a little bit, but there was no response. The trick kind of ended abruptly. And for the rest of the night, "He dead," would be a bit of a running gag between myself and my date for the evening.
"If, as the book says, Frog and Toad Are Friends, then Toad has a funeral to go to, because his friend... he dead."
"It's not easy being green. You know what else isn't easy? Staying alive in someone's stomach, apparently. Because that frog... he dead."
Blaine would return to the stage a little bit later and tell us the frog was "just tired." ("Yeah, tired of living," my date said. "He dead.")
Following this was the climax of the show where David held his breath for 10 minutes underwater. What was interesting to me about this was how little they did to fill the "dead time" of a guy sitting underwater. I figured they'd play a video or something to entertain us dumb apes in the audience, but they didn't. There was some music (I think) and some voice-over and a clock ticking the time, but that was about all. And it worked. Everyone seemed pretty enthralled with it.
After the breath-holding stunt there was about 20-30 minutes of Q&A. I've always found Blaine to be an interesting public speaker and I enjoyed hearing him answer questions off the cuff.
The show was a good time. A little strange because Blaine isn't what you think of when you think of someone presenting a theatrical magic show, and he didn't really try to become that either. There was seemingly little, if any, scripting. There was essentially no difference between him performing on stage or on a street corner or in the Dallas Cowboys locker room.
I think there's at least another couple weeks of live performances around the country. And from what he was saying, this entire tour was sort of a test run for a tour in bigger cities or perhaps an extended run in NYC or some place. If you get a chance I definitely recommend it. It may not be the best magic show you ever attend, but it will definitely be unlike anything you've ever seen. (Unless you're some big Hadji Ali, the Human Camel, fan and you've been following him all over the country.)