Damon Albarn's animated band came to life Friday night at New York City's Madison Square Garden with help from more than three dozen musicians, including gospel singers, a brass and string section, an Arabic music ensemble, and a diverse cast of stars: Lou Reed, Mos Def, De La Soul, 1960s soul crooner Bobby Womack, and many others. This was Gorillaz's moment -- and they delivered a truly epic set. Watch video below!
To say Albarn was giddy about the two-hour-plus gig would be a colossal understatement.
"I've been waiting for this moment all my life," Albarn said Thursday, during a taping of Live on Letterman (watch!), in anticipation of group's first-ever gig at the legendary arena. Friday, he performed like he really meant it. The ex-Blur rocker -- bouncing and dancing onstage non-stop -- played ringmaster, leading his massive group in a 24-song set, including older hits like the freaky hip-hop grooves of "Feel Good Inc." and "Clint Eastwood," plus gems from their new album, Plastic Beach, like its gorgeous first single "On Melancholy Hill."
It was non-stop entertainment from an awe-inducing all-star team. Perhaps the most special guests, guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon, both former members of the Clash, stood at the front of the stage -- second in prominence only to Albarn -- and played with a cool swagger that only comes from 30-plus years of practice. As the backbone, they drove the band -- spot-on and sharp, dressed in sailor hats, pea coats, and red- and black-striped shirts, like the crew off a Russian submarine -- and supported all the guests: Lou Reed, the former leader of the Velvet Underground, who played noisy, squawking bass riffs on Plastic Beach's "Some Kind of Nature"; De La Soul, who rapped on "Superfast Jellyfish"; Mos Def, who spit on "Sweepstakes"; Bobby Womack, who crooned on "Stylo"; and Yukimi Nagano, aka Little Dragon, who sang on "To Binge" and "Empire Ants."
Throughout the show, colorful animated cartoons were projected on a massive screen, showing the four fictional members -- 2D, Noodle, Murdoc, and Russel Hobbs -- under attack by evil opponents and fighting back with sprays of bullets. At the end of the show, Albarn invited out Jamie Hewlett, the Tank Girl animator who co-founded Gorillaz and is responsible for all the band's animated imagery and music videos. The crowd went wild and so did Albarn, planting a big celebratory smooch on his face.
Watch video footage from Gorillaz's New York City blowout below. Pretty awesome, right? Right. Click here to see the band's tour itinerary, so you can catch the Gorillaz live for yourself.
Lou Reed and Gorillaz, "Some Kind of Nature"
Mos Def and Gorillaz, "Sweepstakes"
Gorillaz and Yukimi Nagano, "Empire Ants"
Gorillaz, "On Melancholy Hill"
Gorillaz set list:
"Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach"
"19/2000" (w/ Miho Hatori)
"Last Living Souls"
"Stylo" (w/ Bobby Womack)
"On Melancholy Hill"
"Superfast Jellyfish" (w/ De La Soul) ?
"Tomorrow Comes Today" ?
"Some Kind of Nature" (w/ Lou Reed) ?
"Empire Ants" (w/ Yukimi Nagano) ?
"Dirty Harry" (w/ Bootie Brown) ?
"El Mañana" ?
"White Flag" (w/ Bashy) ?
"To Binge" (w/ Yukimi Nagano) ?
"DARE" (w/ Rosie Wilson) ?
"Glitter Freeze" ?
"Sweepstakes" (w/ Mos Def) ?
?"Cloud of Unknowing" (w/ Bobby Womack) ?
"Feel Good Inc" (w/ De La Soul) ?
"Clint Eastwood" (w/ Bashy) ?
"Don't Get Lost In Heaven" ?