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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 5, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 45
Gorillaz irradiate Key Arena with visually stunning show
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Gorillaz irradiate Key Arena with visually stunning show

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Gorillaz
November 2
Key Arena


The world's biggest virtual band made a real-life appearance this week at Key Arena, unveiling themselves in a performance that was cool, artistic, spunky, and big, of course.

Gorillaz, the musical-visual project hatched by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and comic book virtuoso Jamie Hewlett, has managed to hide behind a foursome of cartoon characters named Murdoc, Noodle, Russell, and 2D for nine years, three albums, and several international hit singles - even when they joined Madonna on stage for the 2006 Grammy Awards, the British act still took the form of a virtual ensemble.

But after a slick introduction, featuring Snoop Dogg and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on 'Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,' a set of large, bold letters were lit one by one to spell out 'GORILLAZ' and there was no more hiding from then on. Dressed in semi-baggy Levi's, white sneakers, and matching belt with a striped red-blue shirt, Albarn emerged and opened the concert with 'Last Living Souls,' a track from the group's Demon Days recording.

'19/2000,' from the band's self-titled debut, was packed with all sorts of fun and roused main floor concertgoers to wave their hands in the air frantically. R&B legend Bobby Womack wrapped his deep, soulful pipes around 'Stylo,' but missing in action was the other song's collaborator, rap maverick Mos Def. Sub-ins replaced hip-hop stars De La Soul on 'Superstar Jellyfish,' however, the actual Little Dragon came out to sing lead vocals on 'Empire Ants,' a definite highlight of the show. Wearing a royal blue knee-length skirt that looked like a tea cup when she twirled, and backed by heavy disco beats with dizzying keyboards, Little Dragon was irresistibly adorable.

Comparing Seattle to his London hometown, Albarn said, 'When the clouds are down, it's like England.' He later stated of Gorillaz's initial U.S. embarkment that 'It's been incredible, really incredible.' Albarn is a big kid in reality, a playful, hyper, and enthusiastic child who seems to be having as good a time as we imagine it would be on a large, colorful stage with everyone from The Clash's Mick Jones and Paul Simonon - in slouchy vintage gear, including retro Captain hats - to veteran singer Womack to an eight-piece brass section that incorporated trumpets, trombones, and a tuba.

Little Dragon peeked out again for a duet with Albarn on 'To Binge,' set against scrolling Asian characters and a bubbly, pastel-washed, karaoke-type screen. The two held hands like a pair of inseparable elementary students at recess. 'Dare' was remarkably active, with Albarn moving from side to side on stage and the GORILLAZ lettering now illuminated in Lifesavers-like colors. Gorillaz closed the main set with 'Plastic Beach,' the title number of their newest full-length effort.

For an encore, Womack returned for a stirring take on 'Cloud of Unknowing,' followed by a peppy run-through of 'Feel Good Inc.' Unfortunately, both of these were reduced to two- to three-minute versions, so we barely had enough time to enjoy them. Blowing into a recorder, Albarn intro'd the final song of the night, a very lively rendition of 'Clint Eastwood' that got almost everybody on their feet and joining in on the chorus.

Throughout the concert, a stage-length screen flashed images of the animated punkish figures, the band as we knew them until now, mouthing the words along with Albarn and his guest vocalists amidst a variety of scenery - from urban streets in the wee, dark hours to mystical, exotic landscapes in broad daylight.

Once thought to be a gimmick act, not serious artists with decent musical skill, Gorillaz has become a respected innovator of multimedia - they sound great, and are always visually entertaining. There's a level of intelligence and sophistication involved here, simultaneously folded into a sound that is commercially acceptable as well as artistically edgy - it's these elements, and the fact that it was so much fun to watch it all being unraveled on a real stage, that sent concertgoers home having experienced something truly unique.

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