It would be a crime to just simply review this show, it was so much more and needs some context. After the hyped-up release of the 4 songs on the Thursday night and the announcement of this secret show, I was well and truly excited like the 6 year old who’s mum blissfully unaware, bought him Demon Days, the Gorillaz have a fond place in my heart. But I was in Manchester, having just come back from reviewing Circa Waves and seeing Car Seat Headrest on Friday, regardless we signed up anyway, not expecting much.
The Friday morning came, we were told if we had no email by 11am we were unlucky, we had so such email and we moved on with the day, until about 5 minutes late when we were told we in fact did have tickets. There’s not a way to describe the feeling of being able to see someone you’ve liked since you were a todder, we gave the Car seat headrest ticket away and hopped on the soonest bus to London, brimming with excitement.
I’ve never been to a proper secret show before so I’m not sure if this is usual but we were led to a secret empty warehouse with no markings to say it was Gorillaz or even a gig, it was all very hush hush and felt more like a military operation or quarantine, the 300 or so ticket winners were all led in and were given a special commemorative ticket (I got Russell). For those that don’t know, this would be the first Gorillaz gig in 7 years and the first chance to hear the four new singles, the show started with a group of backing singers arriving along with a quiet Damon who sat in the corner and started to produce “The Fall” style beats on a tablet whilst laughing, an odd start to the show but as the rest of the band arrived the crowd was ecstatic. The man burst into life, telling the crowd that we would be hearing the entirety of the new album “Humanz” let alone the four new songs and that there will be too many guests to introduce, at this point the crowd was screaming, the warehouse of 300 felt like 3000. The show began with “Ascension” one of the new singles, and whilst sadly Vince Staples was in Canada, his presence was still felt through pre-recorded clips projected, the same occurred for the other absentees. I won’t waste your time analysing every song, save that for an album review next month but needless to say, the highlights of the new album, especially live seem to be “Charger”, Damon’s thrashy punk attempt coupled with Grace Jones providing a calming contrast to his vocals , the other stand out for me was “Submission” Being a massive Blur fan and Danny Brown fan, I never thought I’d see Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn and Danny Brown perform together and I think it’s what makes Gorillaz so magical, bringing together of such diverse talent and the mix of Damon’s radio talk vocals mixed with Brown’s made the perfect mix.
The album was finished with both Noel Gallagher, Albarn’s frenemy from the 90’s turning up for a jam, and Jehnny Beth, the talented lead singer of Savages coming out to perform “We got the power” and finished the album on a high.
Of course, it wasn’t over, Damon knew what the fans wanted, the fans knew what the fans wanted, and god did they get it. Starting with a far louder version of “Kids With Gunz” in which the fans used the mic just as much as he did, followed by a frantic rendition of “Feel Good Inc” and yes, De La Soul was there, and yes everyone knew the rap bits. However, Damon had saved the biggest surprise for last, of all the guests he had bagged, Del the Funky Homosapien may not have been the biggest guest but having never performed “Clint Eastwood” live with the Gorillaz, he was definitely the most important and is one of the reasons this gig will go down in the memory of Gorillaz themselves and the fans. “Clint Eastwood” still sounds fantastic a good 16 years later and its iconic status meant no fan was left static including yours truly.
Being one who loves to spoil, Albarn treated the crowd to “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and “Demon Days” with every guest turning up as if it were the end of a theatrical performance, and with the birthday boy at the wheel, it certainly was. It’s crazy to think that morning I woke up in Manchester completely unaware I’d be seeing one of my favourite bands of all time and this will stick in memory for a very long time, be sure to stick around for a review of Demon Dayz festival in June where Damon assured every guest on the new album will be there.
Words by Connor Moore.