Wednesday 17 November 2010

Wealth of Music and Visuals in Wonderful Gorillaz Show

Musical genius Damon Albarn was tired of touring with his band Blur when he came up with his hobby project Gorillaz in 1998. By introducing Jamie Hewlett's cartoon characters as band members he could stay out of the spot lights. It was a big hit even across the pond. Earlier this year they released their third album 'Plastic Beach' and announced a world tour. How do you bring this band to a live stage with songs that have contributions by so many guest musicians? You do it Gorillaz style.

Gorillaz in Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 15 2010 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
The few live performances Gorillaz gave so far used holograms of the four cartoon members of the band. But this tour has a completely different approach. Once the lights go out and the big letters that spell "Gorillaz" light up Murdoc, one of the cartoon characters, speaks from the big screen. After that the full blown band enters the stage: strings, the horns of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago, drums, backing vocals, The Clash veterans guitarist Mick Jones and bass player Paul Simonon and of course the master mind himself Damon Albarn. The intro of 'Plastic Beach' sounds and Snoop Dogg looks down on us from the big screen. This is Gorillaz 2010.

A big spectacle unfolds. One that asks the most of all your senses. Continuous visuals on the screen and Gorillaz songs pass by with hardly any breaks, guest musicians enter and leave the stage. Everything is perfectly orchestrated and laid out. But it all blends together so nicely, the music is well played and with so much energy and joy that it's a delight watching it all. Albarn is all over the stage, jumping up and down like in Blur's best years, interacting with the crowd and his huge band but always in control.

The show is the story of Plastic Beach and they play most of the tracks of the album. Mixed with the finest songs of the earlier albums big hits like 'Feel Good Inc' and 'Clint Eastwood' have not been forgotten. It's a full two hour set of magic including the four song encore. Albarn occasionally talks to the crowd and looks like he's having lots of fun. During 'White Flag' he grabs a huge white (duh) flag and runs off stage through the venue. He passes me by a few inches but everything goes so fast I can't take a decent picture. The band awaits him patiently when they have finished. Once he's back on stage panting "it's bigger than I thought" he remarks surprised "why don't you start without me?".

When you record with so many famous guest musicians you can't bring them all with you on tour. But you can at least try and let a couple play as a support act to the show like De La Soul and Little Dragon. And they can fill in nicely in other songs as well like Kano and Bashy, Roses Gabor, Bobby Womack and Neneh Cherry all have their time in the spot lights. Although it's not entirely clear what Cherry's role is since she's inaudible. Even The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music that have their part in 'White Flag' came along.

After this magical tour when the colourful band has left the stage Murdoc says goodbye from his trashed dressing room leaving us in awe for genius Albarn.

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