Gorillaz are the kind of band you either know or don’t, but either way, you’ve heard their music. More commonly known for their aesthetic as a ‘virtual band’, they finally took to the stage for their much anticipated ‘Humanz’ tour, after releasing their first album since 2011. The band, undefined by any particular genre, made an unforgettable return, incomparable to anything I have ever seen or experienced before.
There was a strong atmosphere from the moment I entered the arena, it was heaving with people of all ages who had come together and were soon to be mesmerised by this incredible comeback tour.
“I hadn’t seen support featuring in a main show before”
Support act Little Simz started off the show with a high energy performance, getting us pumped up for Gorillaz. The up and coming female rapper also featured in several Gorillaz songs during the show, which was refreshing as I hadn’t seen support featuring in a main show before and it added to the general feeling of community present in the crowd.
Whilst waiting for the main show to begin, an image projected onto the screen with the audience in the background. Everyone was trying to spot themselves and getting excited when they finally did, this made me feel connected and interacted with as an audience member from the outset.
Gorillaz opened with ‘M1 A1’, shortly followed by ‘Last Living Souls’, creating a feeling of nostalgia as it threw us back to 2005. As soon as they started playing, everyone began to dance and did not stop until the end of the show. This is the kind of music you can’t stand still to; even the seemingly chill songs include catchy rhythms and beats.
“The strong messages loaded into their music are often underappreciated”
Gorillaz are so individual in their aesthetic and their eccentrically postmodern approach, that it can often be a distraction from how moving their powerful and nuanced songs and lyrics are. The strong messages loaded into their music are often underappreciated, and are interestingly all paired with an in depth back story, explored through the animated personas 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. This was something I hadn’t truly appreciated and understood until seeing them live and being fully immersed in the show.
Front man Damon Albarn gave a captivating performance, with a bold stage presence, engaging with both the audience and the vast array of other performers on stage. Featuring artists came and went, and there was also a choir and orchestra present on stage throughout the show, all of whom showcased raw talent and a true passion for performance. The addition of different artists throughout the show meant there was a constant feeling of anticipation and excitement.
Despite the extensive collection of artists on stage, there was a heavy focus on the entrancing visuals. Each song was paired with a visual show to enhance the overall performance, including videos of the cartoon personas, music videos, videos of artists who were in the songs, and an immense light show. This created a kind of cinematic experience, and despite performers not making much stereotypical interaction such as shouting out to the crowd, I did not feel detached in any sense. Rather, the passion that was evident from all artists created such an intense stage presence, that resulted in a high sense of intimacy.
“With Gorillaz you can focus on the true quality of their music”
The high entertainment value of the band’s performance in terms of the visuals forces the audience to focus more on their music and performance art rather than ‘fangirling’ and only focusing on the individuals as celebrities, as happens with a lot of artists in popular culture. With Gorillaz you can focus on the true quality of their music, and their artistic talent shines through.
It was interesting to hear their newly released music, massively varying in style featuring artists like Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan in ‘Saturnz Barz’, as well as their well-known classics such as ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Feel Good Inc’. Despite some of their most recognised songs coming out over a decade ago, they didn’t sound dated at all, because of their effortlessly timeless nature.
The variation of different sounding songs was impressive, Gorillaz’s genre blending, fluently switching between rap, melodic, electronic and more, showed their true creative genius. Though they play with different sounds, they still have their distinct style and voice interweaving throughout and no song is alike, making for a truly captivating and compelling performance, enhanced by the amazing sound quality in the arena.
“They cater to all audiences”
Not being defined by a specific genre and having a mixture of energetic and relaxing music means they cater to all audiences, which was clear by the vast array of people present. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett created this virtual band as a comment on the lack of the substance within popular music and they have definitely made their mark, with this performance highlighting how they are true artists in every sense of the word.
I had high expectations but Gorillaz well and truly outdone themselves and absolutely smashed it. Solid 10/10 from me and I’m sure everyone else who attended would agree. If you ever get the chance to see this extraordinary band, grab it, you won’t regret it.
Image Courtesy of Alana McKenna