Gig review: Gorillaz, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 16/12/2010

Damon Albarn Pic: Sevana Ohandjanian

I don’t believe in idolizing musicians. They’re only people after all. Often ridiculously talented people who can read my mind and project my emotions in song far more articulately than I ever could, but people nonetheless. What I can say about Damon Albarn is that I greatly admire him. As Blur frontman, solo artist, opera composer and in this case, cartoon band purveyor, he has never rested on his laurels or feared losing audiences as a result of taking a musical risk. So of course a live Gorillaz show wouldn’t be a casual lasers-and-lights event.

It’s rather sweet that Little Dragon and De La Soul were given the chance to flex their solo skills outside of Gorillaz cameos with individual support sets. Little Dragon were electronically titillating, with a spectacularly emotive frontwoman in Yukimi Nagano. De La Soul got the crowd in the party mood with plenty of crowd interaction, hand raising and bass beats that vibrated from toes to head.

How did Gorillaz evolve from a cartoon band into a multi-limbed behemoth of musicians from across the seas? Somehow an equilibrium has been reached between the two as the strains of Orchestral Intro heralded the arrival of the band, including The Clash members Paul Simonon and Mick Jones.

Then there’s Damon Albarn. The man behind 2D’s hollowed cartoon eyes appeared to have child-like enthusiasm and energy. In an almost two hour show he would proceed to leap across the stage, frantically jump in the air and grip his back up singers by the shoulders to encourage louder cries. He orchestrated without dominating, letting all of his guest voices including the spectacular Bobby Womack, command the stage in their own fashion. It felt like a family party that we’d all lucked in on getting an invitation to attend.

Damon Albarn during Clint Eastwood Pic: Sevana Ohandjanian

The songs came thick and fast, the creases seemingly ironed out after extensively touring most of the year. The setlist was basically perfect, anyone disappointed was nitpicking. Dirty Harry came with hilarious cartoon kid imagery, Snoop Dogg in a sailing outfit complete with telescope for Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach was a definitive highlight, and the mass insanity induced by Dare and Feel Good Inc was contagiously exciting.

A heart-melting intimacy was created between Albarn and Nagano duetting on To Binge before Albarn enjoyed a brief respite during a solo from the Syrian Orchestra, to which Mick Jones proved to be the coolest dude ever by dancing like a grandpa at a wedding. His counterpart Simonon was, to quote my friend at the show, ‘a bad-assss’, slinking about the stage, bass hung low, sailor cap disguising his brow.

However, the best part was watching Damon Albarn’s reaction as he looked out to a sea of adoring fans, with a disbelieving smile crinkling his face as the final operatic positivity of Don’t Get Lost In Heaven beamed down upon us; there’s little changed in the man of many faces, from Britpop to now.

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3 Responses to Gig review: Gorillaz, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 16/12/2010

  1. brian-san says:

    One of the best gigs i’ve been to, but personally, empire ants was a highlight, hearing the live rendition of it made it so damn good. Very interesting how they had accomodated such synthy/studio tracks on to the live stage, and the immense roll call of musicians on stage for their tour, i mean the “support” acts are worthy of their own tour, jst saying, haha. Kinda like a festival without sunburn and dodgy tanktop-vogue,wayfarer/aviator-wearing masses.
    oh and de la soul was sickkk! only missing mos def and snoop.

  2. s says:

    indeed, an awesome show… not matter how much beer was spilt on me, it was all in good spirits. i waxed about my goosebumps as the opening images arrived, and a brother in front called it straight: ‘nothing better than face goosebumps’.
    one question though, who was rapping Mos’ part on Stylo?
    and was that Kano, killing it? whoever it was, they were on fire.

    • Kano was definitely there, I remember him killing it on White Flag. I think the rapper on Stylo was Bootie Brown, the same guy who does the recorded version of the rap in Dirty Harry. They were both awesome, I was soaked by the end of the night but it was worth it!

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