The Liner Notes

All the music that matters

Gorillaz take center stage in Denver

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Sometimes there is a concert, no- a spectacle, which is so good it is just head and shoulders above anything else out there.

That show belonged to the Gorillaz on Sunday, as the collaborative hyper dub hip-hop group took center stage at Denver’s Wells Fargo Theatre as part of their new world tour.

This is the Gorillaz first proper tour where they have shelved the animated band – Murdoc, 2D, Noodles and Russel – in turn placing frontman Damon Albarn, of Blur, and his army of musicians up front and displaying Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett’s, creator of Tank Girl, animation on big screens above the stage.

The evening began promptly with N.E.R.D taking the stage to warm up the crowd.

Pharrell and company did a standout job of getting the crowd on their feet with a mix of the group’s dance-friendly beats.

The highlight of the set would have to be when they dove into some of the new material off their “Nothing” album that came out this week.

Hypnotize U, their latest single produced by Daft Punk was spectacular live, and the inspiring God Bless Us All, was a mellow interlude to some of their classics that really got the crowd jumping.

The stalwart Rock Star-Poser provided the group a little room to improvise and a scalding bass solo. The two drummers also played off each other well to create a cacophony of beats. In all, most nights N.E.R.D. would be a suitable main course, but this was not most nights.

By the time the lights dropped and the screens lit up revealing a HD animated Murdoc the anticipation was palpable.

Following the skit with Murdoc cursing 2D and his banjo and the “warm-up band” about to take the stage, which were in fact Albarn and company.

From the moment Albarn hit the stage to the backdrop of a giant neon Gorillaz sign, the crowd lost it.

An orchestra outfitted in sailor suits to coincide with the band’s recent release “Plastic Beach” gave way to Snoop Dogg’s video on the big screen for Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach.

Albarn immediately jumped onstage front and center as Snoop Dogg faded and dove into the “Demon Days” Last living Souls with video of zombies wandering the desert on the screens.

Not having his animated persona between him and the audience was no hindrance for Albarn who can play the part of a rock star to a T. From start to finish, in a red and black striped shirt, leather jacket and jeans, he bounced around the stage playing a variety of instruments and singing.

After a nice rendition of the classic 19-2000 with Rosie Wilson, Bobby Womack made his first appearance on their new single Stylo. With the song’s video featuring Bruce Willis as an assassin hunting down Murdoc with a giant six-shooter playing, Womack’s airy voice was spot on. Albarn stepped in with a distorted mic to fill in the bridge. It was amazing to see the song come together live.

Following a beautiful version of Rhinestone Eyes, it was De La Soul’s turn to get down with the funky Superfast Jellyfish. Hewlett’s animation flashed across the screens overloading the senses making it hard to watch the performance and art.

De La’s intensity on the quirky disjointed song was not to be outmatched. The group stuck to the new material with Empire Ants featuring Yukimi Nagano, a soulful song that led to the introduction of Bootie Brown on Dirty Harry.

Brown, sporting a blue wind breaker suit, brought fresh intensity to the stage unleashing his signature rhythm while Albarn bounced around the stage with him.

Bashy and Kano made their first appearance on White Flag following an extensive intro by the National Orchestra for Arabic Music that is touring with the group.

Two British rappers sounding off against and Arabic orchestra may appear odd, and it is, but the Gorillaz make it work. Albarn waved a giant white flag on stage before handing it off to an audience member who ran around the theatre with it.

For the mega-hit Dare Rosie Wilson came out, and the theater exploded with bass. Glitter Freeze brought the intensity to another level with the pulsating beat that increases and is only punctuated by the “glitter freeze” chorus. Albarn threw in the raucous Punk from their debut album, which was a nice treat.

Then, because the Gorillaz must just have their own jet to transport their traveling troupe, the Clash’s Mick Jones came out for Plastic Beach. The funky electro track saw Albarn jumping up on the speakers reaching out to the crowd, while Jones sat back and strummed away.

The evening wrapped up in grand fashion; with a one-two punch with the smash hits Feel Good Inc. featuring De La Soul followed by Clint Eastwood featuring Bashy and Kano.

Feel Good devolved into a frenetic mix of raps bouncing of each other and Maseo’s crazy signature laugh that required his entire body to unleash over and over.

On Clint Eastwood Bashy and Kano ran out into the crowd. In the third row, we found ourselves in the middle of the show. As the duo bounced the beat back and forth to Albarn on stage, a random guy in an orange pimp suit climbed on Kano, who appeared more than a bit concerned.

The two were good sports through snapping photos with fans as they spit out the lyrics to what is most likely the band’s most popular song.

The night came to a close with Womack signing Don’t get lost in heaven as Albarn played the piano.

I had held off on seeing the Gorillaz until I could actually see the band members, rather than animation, and it was well worth it. Albarn and his crew of talented musicians are creating some of the most progressive music out there.

Notable tracks I would have liked to have heard include the new single Doncamatic, Bill Murray, Kids with Guns and White Light.

The animation and films on the screen was compelling, and abundant. Hewlett created enough original art to fill the entire two plus hour show.

Hands down it was the best show of the year.

Full setlist

1. Welcome to the world of the plastic beach
2 Last living souls
3 19-2000 (with Rosie Wilson)
4 Stylo (with Bobby Womack)
5 On melancholy hill
6 Rhinestone eyes
7 Superfast jellyfish (with de la soul)
8 Tomorrow comes today
9 Empire ants (with Yukimi Nagano)
10 Broken
11 Dirty harry (with Bootie Brown)
12 el manana
13 White flag (with Bashy and Kano)
14 To binge (with yukimi nagano)
15 Dare (with Rosie Wilson)
16 Glitter freeze
17 Punk
18 Plastic beach
19 Cloud of unknowing (with Womack)
20 Feel good inc ( with de la soul)
21 Clint Eastwood (remix with bashy and kano)
22 Don’t get lost in heaven (with Womack)

*Playlist courtesy of Eric Young

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Written by David Young

October 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm

One Response

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  1. They also did fire coming out of a monkeys head!

    Aaron

    December 6, 2010 at 9:59 am


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