British Virtual Band Gorillaz Comes to Detroit
by Isabella Franklin
On September 18, Gorillaz, a virtual alternative rock band created by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, performed a show in Detroit as part of its current tour, Humanz. The performance featured songs from previous albums, along with songs from the band’s newest album, Humanz, accompanied by energetic special effects, an animated backdrop, and several musicians such Vince Staples, De La Soul, Danny Brown, and more.
Vince Staples opened the concert at 7:30 P.M. with loud, heavy bass that sounded throughout the entire theater. Many of the seats in the theater were still empty at this point, as most of the audience was buying food or merchandise at the building’s entrance. Staples’s performance was just less than an hour and was a good opener, but was not especially memorable. A little after 8:30 P.M., Damon Albarn stepped on the stage and began to perform.
The first song was “M1A1” from the band’s first album, Gorillaz. It was a nice start to the show; it begins very quietly, and is followed with a buildup, allowing the audience to get into the music. Afterward, they played a more popular and well-known song, “Last Living Souls”, and the audience loved it. At this point, almost everyone in the theater was singing or dancing to the music. Both songs were also accompanied by bright flashing lights and visuals of the band members and other figures, and these intense visuals continued throughout the show.
The rest of the show continued to be this lively and loved by the audience. The setlist was great. Songs blended smoothly during transitions, and there were no points during which Albarn stopped to talk to the audience, making the experience of seeing a virtual band feel more authentic. Gorillaz has as many songs with heavy political messages as it does peppy, and the band stayed true to its style by performing a balance of songs with different messages, styles, and emotions.
However, some song fell flat, with one particularly low point being “Sex Murder Party” featuring Zebra Katz and Jamie Principle in metallic, reflective outfits. The audience did not seem to appreciate this performance as much as the others, with very few people dancing or singing to the song. Everyone seemed to be bored or uncomfortable. The high points definitely outweighed the low, though; more upbeat songs like “Saturnz Bars” and “Superfast Jellyfish” got the audience excited, while slower, more emotional songs like “On Melancholy Hill” had the audience singing along sincerely.
Gorillaz is known for featuring various artists on its songs, and this time around is no different. Almost every single song performed had at least one artist featured on it, whether it was the original featured artist or a different artist. Some artists who were unable to make it to Detroit, such as Popcaan and Kilo Kish, appeared on pre-recorded video with designs and visuals to complement their performance. The effect was very interesting, and it was just as well-enjoyed as the live performers were. It also allowed for eerie glitches and movement in the artist’s movement, which suited the song “Out of Body” perfectly. This only accentuated the concert’s already mesmerizing visuals and performances.
I’ve been a fan of Gorillaz since 2011, and I was originally a little disappointed with the Humanz album after years of waiting for new music. The almost entirely enthralling Detroit performance and presentation of the Humanz album completely changed my point of view of all but nearly all of the on the album. Overall, the concert was definitely worth the $200+ that the tickets cost.