O2 Arena, London
Gorillaz live at the O2 Arena was always going to be an experience. With a back catalogue like theirs and a penchant for cinematic visuals, we were in for a treat, whether the performance took place in the physical realm or the virtual. Somehow – with screens packed with signature characters synchronised perfectly with songs and a full stage of unobscured, incredibly talented musicians – the band, collective, movement or whatever you might call them, were able to deliver both.
The set was surprisingly generous with its share of classics from the start whilst seamlessly weaving in songs from latest album Human. Garage Palace featuring Little Simz and We Got The Power featuring Jehnny Beth of Savages got the entire stadium on their feet and Charger showed us some of Albarn’s most performative side. Saturnz Barz may have lacked Popcaan, but made up for it with full instrumentation – and a huge projection of the dancehall superstar on screen. The display helped bring the album’s apocalyptic theme into focus, creating the feel of a party at the end of the world.
Ultimately, the show served as an ode to collaboration, innovation and diversity. When you manage to get Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Vince Staples, Pusha T, DRAM, Zebra Katz, De La Soul, Shaun Ryder, Noel Gallagher and Little Simz to grace the stage in a matter of hours, it begs the question, how do they do it? And the answer is relatively simple: Damon Albarn – the anti-rockstar, a humble hero. Apart from a few choice thank yous muttered between crescendos – and the earnest bewilderment on his face at the sight of thousands applauding his work – Albarn stuck firmly within the world of his musical creations. But it’s there that he thrived: disappearing into corners to tinker on keys of many forms, strum away at guitars or morph his voice into wacky background ad libs. All before returning intermittently to centre stage to provide us with nostalgic crowd favourites like On Melancholy Hill, Kids With Guns and Clint Eastwood. His genius touch (and psychedelic dad dance moves) were felt on every single track throughout the tremendous two-hour set list.