So the real; yet virtual; Gorillaz announced after their latest release that they would embark on a world tour. Murdoc Nichols, Stuart “2-D” Pot and Cyborg Noodle making up the band this time (with Russell and our lovely Noodle lost somewhere) how could it go wrong? Oh boy it would!
I arrived with a friend (who I owe special thanks for getting me the tickets) at the NIA just as the first of 3 support acts came on; it was Yukimi fronted Little Dragon. An experimental dance/alternate group that seemed to be truly in their zone. Some of the audience got it, where as others (like myself) were left a bit dumbstruck. I had listened to Little Dragon a while ago, and I remember it being distinctly enhanced than what they were performing at the time. Maybe if I had got there at the start of the show I may have been more into it.
De La Soul came on and I would say I enjoyed them, if that was the case. For the first few minutes, the line arrays seemed to be experiencing technical difficulties, something De La were quick to address. Eventually they got going (halfway through their set) and they ended on their classic “Me, Myself and I”. Like I said, I would have enjoyed them if it were not for the sound problems, and when the sound eventually did get going it was too bass heavy so the melody lines in the songs were completely lost and drowned in the noisy metallic reverb that I remember so infamously at the NIA. (Yes, the NIA is a bad arena venue!)
The final support act came on stage at about 9; it was a Gorillaz tribute act. However, it seems the pesky tribute group had stitched Murdoc and his companions up as we caught a glimpse of the Gorillaz in their dressing roo. Murdoc intently trying to hear what is going on outside whilst 2-D keeps strumming on a “Bloody Banjo!” The group then discover their door has become jammed and so they can’t get out. Me thinks it twas the pesky tribute act. *
So the tribute act started their set with the Orchestral Intro featured on Plastic Beach. The smooth “chordal” riffs uplifted us to the island, as on the large display glowing in glory was Plastic Beach. (Chordal = chords, coral and choral to anyone who wondered, I made it up). Slowly one by one the band came onto stage.
Oddly enough some of them seemed familiar, I could be wrong but I believe Damon Albarn from Blur, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash, Simon Tong of the Verve and others were making up this tribute band. I knew times were hard up with the recession at the moment, but surely these musical legends weren’t resorting to a tribute band?
As the symphonic section ended their eclectic piece, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble started tooting their brass weapons of jazz as one by one the letters “Gorillaz” started illuminating. Snoop Dogg appeared via the screen to do his section of the song “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”. After a fairly mellow start, all of a sudden Cass Browne smashes in with a true hip-hop rhythm and the entire arena rattles and radiates with exhilaration!
We were then sent back to Demon Days with the superb, “Last Living Souls”. Accompanied by visuals of 2 Zombies making their way through the world. Quite a treat! The history lesson of the past albums was not yet over, we next got a brilliant rendition of 19/2000. Already within 10 minutes I was utterly blown away, the visuals, the lights, the bands charisma, the complexity. The entire cake was phenomenal and I was craving more slices.
The trio of videos from Plastic Beach, getting us up to date on how the Gorillaz arrived at Plastic Beach. Starting of with “Stylo”, it sounded like more funk electro live with the added guitar sections and guest vocalist Bobby Womack displaying his flair. Followed by the next single, ” On Melancholy Hill”, we see where Noodle and Russell have ended up in this whole charade. This for me was the most disappointing song of the night; it sounded less akin to a soothing lullaby (like on the album or the Radio 1 live Lounge version) and more resembling to a slack unwilled trudge. Subsequently was “Rhinestone Eyes” with the animatic video, displaying more of the tale.
De La Soul made their first appearance during the Gorillaz section to perform “Superfast Jellyfish”, one of the paramount modern Hip Hop based songs.
“Tomorrow Comes Today” and “Empire Ants” followed, each a splendid treat for myself, two of my favourite Gorillaz tracks.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble returned for “Broken”, extending the song by a few minutes making it tangent into a slight marching band refrain. Made the song more unique for me and really helped me understand the idea behind it. The animation of Noodle was quite endearing too.
Bootie Brown collaborated next on “Dirty Harry” which still sounds as evil and captivatingly mesmeric as ever.
Up and coming artist Daley joined Albarn and the gang for the latest release, “Doncamatic”, that was so much heavier and groovy live! Daley also sounded better oddly enough. The only downside is the flack the fan base has given to this song.
The Syrian Orchestra joined the group to perform White Flag; however before they even started the song they played a 3-minute jam piece that was so outstanding to the ears and the eyes. Definitely the highlight of the night! Kano and Bashy jumped on stage during White Flag whilst Damon attempted to pick up a White Flag, in the end getting rather annoyed by the fact some
crew member had got it stuck. He may have even mouthed a certain expletive. This song on the album doesn’t come off as anything special, but where you here it live and can really experience all that is going on, it becomes otherworldly.
The starting video of the show
The core of the band left the stage after a highly atmospheric version of “Cloud of Unknowing”, leaving the audience in awe. After much cheering and deliverance from the crowd, the band eventually returned to play the much needed encore. Some people left thinking that it was the end of the show, despite the fact that the 2 biggest songs in the Gorillaz catalogue had yet to paraded. More fool them; they were really going to miss out.
De La Soul joined the band to perform the wonderfully brilliant “Feel Good Inc”. Alive as it was the first day I ever laid my ears upon it.
Damon then jumped towards the front of the stage and stood under a spotlight clenching his precious harmonic. Without saying a word, just playing 3 notes the volcanic crowd erupted into cheers, as everyone knew Damon was telling us that “Clint Eastwood” was about to begin. Kano and Bashy did the rap sections (instead of Del) and the entire band jumped with the crowd. It was such a spectacle.
To end the show the band played the final 2 tracks of Demon Days just as they appear on the album (Don’t Get Lost In Heaven/Demon Days). It was the perfect end, such an uplifting and brilliantly composed piece. The stained glass visuals that accompany it, are probably some of Jamie Hewlett’s best work!
Damon enjoyed himself so much that he fell over during the Demon Days section. It was pretty funny and he seemed to be all right after it! Simon Tong didn’t do much to help though. As the band left the stage I was truly satisfied with the production it was just a shame half the crowd were not into it, the sound of the venue was terrible and more people seemed to be interested in sticking their phones in the air than listening and watching what was going on. If they tour again, I’m getting to the front somehow.
- Orchestral Intro
- Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach
- Last Living Souls
- Melancholy Hill
- Rhinestone Eyes
- Superfast Jellyfish
- Tomorrow Comes Today
- Empire Ants
- Dirty Harry
- El Manana
- White Flag
- To Binge
- Glitter Freeze
- Plastic Beach
- Cloud of Unknowing
- Feel Good Inc
- Clint Eastwood
- Don’t Get Lost In Heaven
- Demon Days