Posted by: martinworster | November 6, 2010


Damon Albarn packing US arena’s like Blur never did…


I was wondering what was going through Damon Albarn’s head as I got ready to watch the Gorillaz at Viejas Arena in San Diego. It was a massive stadium – far larger than any venue Blur would have played in the US at their 90s Brit Pop peak. And here he was now, with his ten year old cartoon side project packing seats like never before. The merchandise stands outside were also doing a roaring trade in T-Shirts, CDs and expensive Jamie Hewitt cartoon books. Gorillaz are massive. In their beginnings, they were conceived – massively out of date sounding now – as a ‘virtual reality’ band of cartoon characters. I believe Blur were always too English (lyrically, accent and contentwise) to really translate well to an American audience. It appears our American cousins can relate to the cartoon concept a little easier. 


Over time, the project has morphed into this travelling live monster with a jumbled assortment of guest musicians. Tonight it seemed like a super bargain. For the price of one Gorillaz you get half of the Clash and De La Soul thrown in for free. It was an unexpected bonus seeing Mick Jones and Paul Simonon – replete in trademark Admiral hearts circa 1976 – prowling around the stage. A shame that in the context of the Gorillaz, particularly for the guitar parts, they are essentially just backing musicians. 


The concert opened with some footage on massive screens of the characters – Murdoc, Noodle etc – followed by Snoop Dog introducing the opening song from Plastic Beach. There was a full band – five female violinists, two drummers, the horn section was the mighty Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Hep cat Paul Simonon slunk around the stage supplying the basslines. Damon jumped around doing his front man stuff. It seems like the whole cartoon ‘virtual reality’ concept of the band has dissolved into the background.


A criticism often levelled at the Gorillaz is, as a concept band of assorted characters and guests, it’s hard to really connect with them on a personal level. This is probably true, but the formula clearly works for todays attention deficit Twitter masse – moi included. There’s always something to look at, a new guest is whipped out every other song to keep us ADD victims sustained. Little Dragon guested on a few songs, as did the wonderful Bobby Womack. I was hoping Lou Reed and Shaun Ryder would be wheeled out for a few numbers but alas…


You have to hand it to Damon Albarn. He really is a shape shifting musical genius with the Midas touch. Blur have just momentarily – and very successfully – reformed. The Good, The Bad and The Queen were lauded. His Mali Express album was excellent. Solo side projects abound. He owns Honest Jons record shop and label. I’ve even just heard that he’s forming a new Afro Beat band with Tony Allen and Flea from Chili Peppers – that’s so last year, just ask Thom Yorke. It’s hard to keep up with the man. At least judging from tonight’s performance he’s not spreading himself too thinly.


My only gripe. This world tour was in support of their latest ‘Plastic Beach’ album. The album’s main theme is the damage humanity is doing to the environment and how sketchy our future is. I was alarmed when leaving the arena to look down and see the biggest phalanx of XXL tour buses I had ever seen. I understand there’s a lot of artist ego to shunt around but at this rate the Plastic Beach may well be submerged under 10 meters of recently risen sea water.



  1. I heard today that Shaun Ryder I going to be in I’m a celebrity get me out of here.

  2. …Also I’m on here now “futurefresh” no blogs to speak of yet though.

  3. Err… futurefresh is me, Matt

  4. Thanks Matt! I just added Future Fresh to my blog roll, please link to me. Good to put a post up tho!

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