Damien Alban’s visual crusaders all but blew the roof off the O2 arena last night. After a five-year hiatus, Murdoc, Russel, 2-D and Noodle stormed back into global consciousness this year with their fifth studio album ‘Humanz’. Across it’s twenty tracks, the group’s latest work is absolutely dripping with guest features, including UK quick-flow spinner Lil Simz and funkmeister collaborator-veterans De La Soul. The album left a familiar Gorillaz flavour on the palate, but also incorporated much more of a variety of rap acts than previous albums- adding a fresh spin on group’s characteristic bleeps and bloops.
Much of the appeal of the Gorillaz lies not just in their music, but in their spectacle. Their anime aesthetic was heavy hitting from the get go, as the group (bulked up by a string section and backing singers) launched into the melancholy ‘Every Planet We Reach Is Dead’ from their 2005 album ‘Demon Days’. As the name suggests, the Humanz Tour was expected to be a fairly comprehensive run through of the group’s newest album, but fans were surprised and excited to hear some more vintage Gorillaz tracks right from the very beginning. Pauline Black kicked off the extensive list of guest vocalist, as she stood in for Grace Jones on ‘Charger’, a heavily electronic number that set the tone of the evening.
The one thing that you can always expect from the Gorillaz, is that they never scrimp on visual lusciousness. The large screen behind the performers flashed and raged throughout their set, utilising the huge array of colourful, cartoony and often violent imagery that has accompanied the group’s music since it’s inception. From beloved music videos to the large picture collages, to ginormous gaseous planets far away, the huge arena was constantly lit up with colour and light.
As the night progressed, there was a real sense of the kind of storytelling that Gorillaz relish in. Throughout their albums, the group has a penchant for switching up tempo, range and tone quickly and easily, which creates a narrative as disjointed and colourful as the groups aesthetic. De La Soul’s ‘Plastic Beach’ number ‘Superfast Jelly Fish’ would easily slide into ‘Melancholy Hill’ which would then melt fully into ‘El Mañana’ creating a wonky journey through the group’s back catalogue.
There were a few truly standout, incredibly high energy performances. Long Beach rapper Vince Staples leapt wildly around the stage during his guest number ‘Ascension’:
“The skies falling baby, drop that ass before it crash!” he chanted as gospel style vocals raised him up.
Gorillaz fans may familiar with rapper Lil Simz through their collaboration, but she stole the show, both as the warm up act, and a guest vocalist on her incredibly heavy dance number ‘Garage Palace’. On the omnipresent screen, the group and Simz were reimagined into 8-bit as they fought through a world of zombies, fighter jets and huge neon Buddhas.
The glittering show-stopping spectacular hit a crescendo with the appearance of Jehnny Beth, Little Simz, Graham Coxon and Noel Gallagher. Although the historic Oasis/Blur dispute ended peacefully many years ago, some older fans may still have seen the meeting of Gallagher and Alban as uncanny. Nevertheless, the track bookended a show which veered between the uplifting, the strange and the downright funky.
After a brief intermission of silence and blue light, the group stormed through a few classics in their encore including the grizzled Shaun Ryder featured ‘Dare’ and the ever enigmatic and woozy ‘Clint Eastwood’.
The Gorillaz delivered with sizzling gorgousity. Every part of the show was shining and HD; as much of a spectacle as the band itself. The Gorillaz will be playing again this evening at the 02 Arena in London