After almost two decades of understanding, and appreciating, that Gorillaz are a cartoon band, it is a little disorienting to see the men and women behind Oz's curtain. While your consciousness fully recognizes that a living, breathing man—or musical genius known for his work with Blur, The Good, the Bad & the Queen and countless others—is the brains behind the sonic alchemy of Gorillaz, it remains hard to reconcile that they're not the Jamie Hewlett-drawn, animated menagerie led by 2-D on vocals and keys, Murdoc Niccals on bass, Noodle on guitar, and Russel Hobbs behind the kit.
Leading a 13-piece band including six backup singers at a sold-out KeyArena in Seattle on Saturday, September 30, Damon Albarn was the master of ceremonies. Navigating the ship across the band's extensive back catalogue, every song was a trip through the sounds and visuals Gorillaz have developed over the years. From the opening intro and surging punk rock of "M1 A1," to the epically indelible Del rap on "Clint Eastwood," to the pure poppy merriment of "19-2000," to the Vince Staples cameo providing an energy surge on “Ascension" (listen below), the set list, full of classics, intended to please. But I guess that's what you do when you’re an animated band: You make people happy.
After an impossibly extended "Ode to Idaho" (a debut that twanged for more than seven minutes while extolling the beauty of our neighboring state and the virtues of Bruce Willis' ski lodge), the band segued into the bumping car chase of "Stylo" to kick off the encore, including the video that features Willis in the flesh—watch below.
The whole experience crescendoed and closed with "Don't Get Lost in Heaven" and "Demon Days," and Albarn himself was not unaffected. When he went for his final bow, he just stayed bent over, face in hands. Feeling the outpouring of adoration for his creations, he appear overwhelmed. And just as he'd guided us throughout the whole night to revel in the moment, he once again reflected his emotions right back on us and everyone in attendance felt all the more elated for a chance to witness his talent and authenticity. CY