“We’re finally here! I’m sorry it took ten years though,” Damon Albarn, lead singer of the Gorillaz, said after performing “Super Fast Jellyfish.” It was well worth the wait, though, as Gorillaz pounded through most of their entire discography, ranging from their first hit “Clint Eastwood” to the recent single “Stylo.”
Gorillaz was first formed in 1998 by co-creators Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn and started as a simple musical collaboration between animation and music. Albarn decided to focus on making music with “substance” by combining genres and varying musical artists.
The concert in Fairfax, Virginia began with the bombastic track “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” which featured Snoop Dog on the screen overhead rapping along with the band below. This not only got the audience pumped up for the rest of the show, but also energized Albarn himself, who was dancing across the stage throughout the song.
Damon Albarn along with the other guest artists and the band, would keep this infectious energy for the rest of the show as the crowd danced along with them. Two members of the influential British punk band The Clash, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, also brought a unique sound as part of the band.
Gorillaz continued the concert with crowd pleasers like “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “19-2000” and Plastic Beach favorites “Broken” and “On Melancholy Hill.” The animation above the stage provided some of the evening’s highlights as music videos, assorted drawings, live action renditions, and short films would pop up perfectly in tune with the music.
Jamie Hewlett should be given credit for this part of the performance as many of the animations not only looked great, but helped the concert flow from song to song. Some of the standouts in the animation were the drawings done with the song “Rhinestone Eyes” and the zombie short film played with “Last Living Souls.”
The concert played to Gorillaz’s strengths as in that they aren’t a single artist, but rather the embodiment of many musical artists. The guest artists were rapper Mos Def, vocalist Little Dragon, vocalist Bobby Womack, rapper De La Soul, and rapper Kano, just to name a few.
After a short intermission with a clip from the animated band members Murdoc and 2D, the Gorillaz began again with the bulk of the concert’s songs like “Glitter Freeze,” “Dare,” and “Empire Ants.”
Before the performance of the Arabic-rooted song “White Flag,” Albarn drew attention to the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music by saying, “Would the crowd give a hand for the Arab-Americans that have joined us tonight?” This feeling of international collaboration seemed to be the theme of the night.
The crowd around me was electric as Gorillaz came closer to the finale until it finally let loose with the opening chords of the musical sensation “Feel Good, Inc.” From then on, Albarn and crew would play all of the favorites like “Clint Eastwood,” “Dirty Harry,” and the Bobby Womack-fueled “Cloud of Unknowing” until ending with a beautiful and stirring performance of “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven/Demon Days.”
As the lights dimmed down and Albarn said his thank yous, the concert was over to the mountainous sound of applause. However, on the drive back to McDaniel, I thought less about the great concert I witnessed and more about the lack of bands with “substance” like Gorillaz in the music world today.