What began as a joke a decade ago from Blur front man Albarn and British artist Hewlitt, who wanted to create the world’s first animated band that combined rock and roll, europop and hip-hop are now a world wide legitimate sensation. After three records and over 15 million albums sold, Gorillaz return to New York in support of their latest, Plastic Beach. Plastic Beach is a symphonic concept record about the animated characters in Gorllaz living on their own island with famous friends coming to visit. Though, in theory the concept sounds a bit silly, the record is brilliant and one of the years best. With a band and idea as big as this, they need to put on a show even bigger.
Playing underneath a large screen that would take the audience on a journey to and from Plastic Beach, each song was accompanied by a video and animation that Hewlitt would assemble for the show. Traveling with a chamber orchestra, brass ensemble, a caravan of back up singers and not to mention playing New York City for the first time together since 1983 - Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash – yes, THE CLASH as Albarn’s backing band, really what more can you ask for? If you Damon Albarn, you abide and keep giving the audience what they want (hey Damon if you are reading this, I want Blur to come back to New York – cool?). With a plethora of guests that included Mos Def, De La Soul, Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, Miho Hatori of Chibo Matoo, legendary soul singer Bobby Womack, and legendary New Yorker – Lou Reed. Reed’s cameo would come with thunderous applause and cheers but Lou did not seem to care, in fact, he looked like he did not even want to be there and while it was amazing to see and have him on stage with Jones, Simonon, Albarn and others, it brought the mood of the show down, then again, the music marvel that Reed is, he is a constant killjoy (just as Susan Boyle). Yet, Albarn and Co. would pick it back up. This combination of visuals, musical style and talent, raw energy and power, it was just a two hour experience of wonderment for the audience. While Albarn looked as if he was in all of his glory, he has to say to himself every night on this tour “look at what I have done!” With the music of Gorillaz and their stage show, Albarn has proved himself he is not just a rock and roller but a full on musical mastermind. It was a bit shocking that this gig was not a sell out, because whoever missed this, missed a performance that whatever they see next will be extremely hard to top.
Opening the gig were the greatest party starters that Albarn could have asked for - NERD. Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo's genre bending band came back to New York and as always just delivered a fantastic set. With the band's latest, Nothing, arriving next month, NERD will be on the road and will be an act not to be missed. They truly are a fantastic live band and a great way to kick off any night.