Recap: Gorillaz’ fall tour is a must for anyone who’s ever been thrilled with Damon Albarn’s “Visual Band” project
When Blur frontman Damon Albarn conceptualized Gorillaz with artist Jamie Hewlett in the late 1990s, it’s likely the pair knew they were onto something big.
But could they have imagined that their “virtual band” would headline the mostly sold-out arenas in 2022?
Right now Albarn and an excellent ensemble of 14 backing musicians are doing just that, bringing a highly engaging live experience across North America for a truly engaging production hitting many key Gorillaz tracks over the years, as well only new material. from an upcoming album, cracker island.
Opening the show is a hip-hop group EARTH GANGthat delivers a high-energy, crowd-pleasing performance.
The new Gorillaz record was announced recently and will be the project’s 8th studio album, characterized in a press release as “an energetic, upbeat and genre-broad 10-track collection featuring another stellar lineup of collaborating artists: Stevie Nicks, Adeleye Omotayo, Thundercat, Tame Impala, Bad Bunny and Bootie Brown and Beck.Recorded in London and Los Angeles earlier this year, it is produced by producer/multi-instrumentalist/composer extraordinaire Greg Kurstin, Gorillaz and Remi Kabaka Jr.
Last weekend, the Gorillaz Arena Tour performed a sold-out concert at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles on September 23, followed by a more intimate YouTube Theater show on Sunday, September 25.
Probably a benefit of being in Los Angeles, Beck showed up at both shows to perform two songs with Albarn and the band, “The Valley of the Pagans” (a collaboration of Song Machine, Season 1: Strange Timez) as well as “Possession Island”, a new song which will be featured on cracker island.
Fatoumata Diawara, a Malian singer-songwriter who joined Albarn for “Sorry”, also participated in the YouTube Theater show.
Aside from the surprise guests from Los Angeles, the regular show that Albarn and his colleagues put on for the entirety of the tour is hugely entertaining from start to finish. The focus is on the actual musicians in the building, but the “virtual band” members – 2-D (vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Russel Hobbs ( drums) – are a very active part of the whole, of course.
A gigantic, illuminated video card sets the tone for almost every song, functioning as a centerpiece around which Albarn and the band deliver the performance. It really is the perfect multimedia presentation you would expect from a traveling version of the Gorillaz project.
De La Soul showed up at the YouTube Theater to reprise his guest spot on “Feel Good Inc.”, one of the biggest songs in the Gorillaz catalog:
— RockCellar Magazine (@RockCellarMag) September 26, 2022
The evening ended with “Clint Eastwood”, the lead single from Gorillaz’s debut album and an enduring classic of decades past. For this one (and “Rock the House”), Del the Funky Homosapien graced the stage as a fairly rare guest:
Again, the extra guests that performed in LA won’t be something you should expect at every show on the tour. And that’s fine – because the Gorillaz experience that Albarn and his colleagues have put together is just as immersive, entertaining, and memorable on its own.
Whether it’s his Britpop excellence with Blur, his thoughtful solo records or beyond, Albarn’s career is one of disparate creative avenues, stylistic departures and adventurous creativity. Gorillaz is among the strongest explorations of this creativity, and it makes for a great live experience in 2022.
The remaining dates of the Gorillaz tour:
Fri September 30 – Austin, TX – Moody Center
Saturday, October 01 – Irving, TX – The Toyota Music Factory Pavilion
Monday, October 3 – Chicago, IL – United Center
Wed October 05 – Detroit, MI – Little Caesars Arena
Thu Oct 06 – Toronto, ON – Scotiabank Arena
Sat October 08 – Montreal, QC – Bell Center
Tuesday, October 11 – Boston, MA – TD Garden
Wednesday, October 12 – Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center
Friday, October 14 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Met Philadelphia
Monday, October 17 – Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Wednesday, October 19 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheater
Fri October 21 – Orlando, Florida – Amway Center
Sunday, October 23 – Miami, Florida – FTX Arena