Entertainment » Music

Gorillaz. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. July 12, 2017

by James Nadeau
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jul 14, 2017
Damon Albarn from Gorillaz.
Damon Albarn from Gorillaz.  

Virtual or not the British band Gorillaz made an appearance on a very wet night in Boston on Wednesday. Best known (publicly at least) as 2-D (lead vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboards), and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion) they were created in 1998 by musical Damon Albarn (of Blur) and artist Jamie Hewlett (creator of Tank Girl). The music resists any specific genre often jumping from alternative rock to hip-hop to trip-hop to electronica. Their debut album "Gorillaz" sold over seven million copies back in 2001 and cemented the bands reputation as one of the most diverse and interesting artistic creations of the new millennium, virtual or not. Their fifth studio album "Humanz" was released back in April and boasts an astounding list of collaborators from Del La Soul to Grace Jones and Vince Staples (who is also opening for them on select dates of this tour).

Initially when touring (which wasn't very often) the band performed behind a screen on which the various animations and visuals created by Hewlett were projected keeping the illusion of the "fake," i.e. virtual band alive. They have since discarded this method and they are better for it. While interesting as a concept and as a media statement, live it leaves something to be desired. As lead singer of the band Blur, Damon Albarn is certainly a skilled live performer and it was nice to actually see him. And they weren't slacking on visuals. Digital screens played a large role in this show. It was nice to have the band perform in front of them now instead of behind, especially considering the number of guests that are performing with them on this tour.

It has been six years since the last Gorillaz album and they are certainly now relying on past successes to give them momentum. "Humanz" was well represented on this tour and the music held up nicely against the older, more famous, songs. The aforementioned Vince Staples helped get the show started, jumping on stage to do "Ascension," a highlight from the new album. Another track "Sex Murder Party" featured guests Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz taking center stage with Katz resplendent in a silver jumpsuit. It was honestly a nicely queer moment in a show that really did seem pretty queer to begin with. Quick aside: I was really surprised just how queer the band is considering how "Bro-ey" their fans are. It was nice to see and experience. It was honestly one of the most inclusive concerts I've ever attended. You rarely see such diversity on a rock stage and it made me happy. Now back to the review.

Speaking of guest stars, who should appear on stage during "Ticker Tape" then but none other than Carly Simon. Obviously she appears on the track but as Damon announced, she happened to take a quick trip over from Nantucket for the performance and it was kind of mind blowing. Sadly Grace Jones, who sings on the fantastic song "Charger," only appeared via tape because after seeing her at Primavera I probably would have just spontaneously exploded. She is that powerful. This set the tone for a lot of the guest singers, most appeared via tape and/or video. The non-"Humanz" songs were well represented though limited. You'll get "Tomorrow Comes Today" and "Kids With Gun" (with its highly charged visual montage of floating handguns I couldn't tell if Albarn was making commentary on the American predilection for guns. I'm gonna guess and say kinda?). And of course, they couldn't not do "Clint Eastwood," causing the audience to seriously lose their collective shit. Despite the torrential downpour and monsoon-like weather the show was clearly one of the top concerts so far this year. The band knows how to entertain and Damon Albarn is a consummate show man, running from guitar to piano to melodica. The man is amazing to watch. The Gorillaz rarely tour but when they do you better catch them. Behind a screen or not, they are simply one of the best bands out there. You won't hear or see anything else like them.

For more on Gorillaz and their current tour, visit the group's website.

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