I was a little nervous to see them though. Long-time readers of the site will remember I saw Gorillaz on their first-ever tour in the US in 2002 at the Electric Factory in Philly with my French friend Julie (who LOVED the Strokes–Julie where have you gone??). It was one of the WORST shows I’ve ever been to.
I think it was a combo of the fact that the EF is the pit of hell (think of Roseland, but worse–luckily I was in the balcony), and that the band was playing behind a scrim for the entire show. Projections of some custom cartoons were played above the silhouettes of the band were very cool, but with the band completely hidden it just didn’t work. It was like paying money to go watch a music video on a large screen–not too hot.
But luckily this time round the show was much much better. Obviously Gorillaz have learned that people do actually want to see the band playing, and everyone who was performing live was onstage. It was fun, even funtastic? The world famous Apollo theater is of course gorgeous, and it seems as though it’s been a bit refurbished since the last time I was there for The Strokes on December 30, 2001. It was such a…Feel Good event, I would definitely recommend attending!
Now I know some of you may be wondering why your ticket was a million dollars. Two words: Production Costs. Here’s what you were paying for: One children’s choir, one adult gospel choir, 4 back up singers, one Shaun Rider (and his lollipop addiction), one Ike Turner (and his toxic green-lined jackets), one Neneh Cherry, 2 guitarists, a bassist, one percussionist, one drummer, a keyboardist, a DJ, one laugh-happy De La Soul, a small string orchestra, and Damon Albarn sitting at a piano in the shadows. You paid to see a small developing nation.
The night started off pretty tame, with everyone sitting in their seats. Actually, I take that back, it started off kinda weird. About 10 5-10 minutes before the show started there was a short cartoon with Murdoc Nicalls wearing a pink thong and talking on a cell phone. Turns out it was a short Motorola spot (apparently they were helping sponsoring the event). I was like, “Holy crap, did I just see a cellphone comercial at a concert?” Indeed I did my friends, indeed I did.
Then a Daffy Duck/ Porky Pig episode came on, and directly after large-scale puppets of Murdoc and 2D popped up in the right box. The person I was sitting next to was surreptitiously trying to take photos when an usher came over and said, “Excuse me sir. Excuse me sir, you have a camera?”
When he started politely saying, “Yes, I’m putting it away,” she interrupted him and much to everyone’s surprise said, “You can take pictures for the first 5 mintues.” Huh? I’ve never had an usher come over and tell someone that they COULD take pictures before. So with that permission, I whipped out my own camera and just took 2 photos (below), before they said we couldn’t snap any more.
Everyone was pretty sedate during the opening songs, only a few people standing up and dancing–their body outlines defined by the bright colored lights coming from the stage. I remarked that it was like being in a real life iPod commercial, the way their bodies were blacked out, arms in the air, and the vibrant colors shining behind them.
But as soon as the children’s choir came out to do “Dirty Harry” everyone got up on their feet to cheer and clap. The kids jumped around the stage, as did the audience, and when the boys and girls piled off into the wings I shouted, “Now go do your homework!”
The rest of the night was an exercise in standing and sitting–there were instances where the ushers directed us to sit–like when D and friend were standing when Ike Turner was playing piano, the usher came over and told them to sit down for no apparent reason. (Perhaps they were not Ike fans.) The other guy I was sitting next to commented that it was kinda like being at church.
One of my favorite moments was when Shaun Ryder (of the Happy Mondays) came out on stage to sing DARE…and he has the build of a retired footballer and was dressed in a zip-up sweatshirt, jeans, and donned sunglasses indoors. But by far the best part was the fact that he had a lollipop in his mouth and when he wasn’t singing, he was sucking on the lolli! It was kinda like watching a soon-to-be trainwreck right before it’s about to hit. Brilliant!
Another great moment was during “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” when the choir was singing and projections of stained glass windows were displayed on the screen overhead. Very beautiful.
The puppets returned to coax the crowd in its cheering and clapping for an encore, and eventually it worked. Damon Albarn, the driving (and consistent) force behind Gorillaz, finally tore himself away from his piano bench in the back and came front and center to the stage.
He seemed very calm and humble, so very unlike his Blur persona that he was indulging in as little as 3 years ago when he was jumping around like Gollum hopped up on speed at the Bowery Ballroom with “Blurval Schools.” He crooned out a lovely version of “Hong Kong,” which appears on Help: A Day In the Life as Zeng Zhen strummed upon her Chinese zither. Damon kept looking up at the mezz levels, putting his hands together and saying “Thank you.”
Some of the other songs they played were Demon Days/ Kids with Guns/ Feel Good Inc./ White Light/ Last Living Souls. The encore also included Que Pasa Contigo? (One of my favorite song names ever.) as a tribute to Ibrahim Ferrar, who died last year.
For those still itching to catch one of the remaining shows, good news! Gorillaz are releasing a bunch a tickets to die hard fans that were shut out when the tix originally went on sale on March 10th. According to the rumors, they will be “amazing” tickets sold for a “good” price. You can catch ‘em on on Ticketbastard as well as the box office first thing maÃ±ana.