Concert Reviews

Gorillaz Were More Animated Than Ever in the Flesh on Saturday

Damon Albarn got personal with fans on Saturday night.
Damon Albarn got personal with fans on Saturday night. Andrew Sherman
For the first time in over four years, Gorillaz is back on tour. And the animated, "virtual" group is bigger than ever, having easily sold out the The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on Saturday. The Irving venue is one of the smallest venues on this tour, and even with 8,000 people or so, it still felt like an intimate concert.

Grammy-nominated Atlanta hip-hop duo EARTHGANG opened the night with a high-energy set. They walked out in cowboy hats, embracing their version of Texas, and made many calls for the audience to put their hands in the air. They had an accompanying three-piece band whose sound organically matched the DJ and the main members Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot, aka Eian Parker).
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Damon Albarn, lead singer of Gorillaz, got wild on Saturday.
Andrew Sherman

The lights went down, and the real-life members of Gorillaz entered with a big "Hello" on the screen welcoming the exuberant crowd. The energy was dialed up to the edge of mania, and the crowd was right there with them from the jump.

The band has been hailed as the greatest virtual band of all times, but this was a show with real-life people rocking the fuck out.
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The Gorillaz never needed the avatars, but they're a fun element of the show.
Andrew Sherman

By the third song, the trademark animated characters started making short appearances between the live shots. The video screens showed close-ups of the real 10 players onstage, but the show definitely revolved around co-creator and frontman Damon Albarn, who had a staircase and got right into the crowd almost immediately. The singer spent much of his time with the fans throughout the show, though even his simple greeting of “Good evening" was met by a roar.
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Gorillaz played a sold-out show on Saturday.
Andrew Sherman

But he did far more than that, singing through what looked like a CB radio and playing multiple instruments throughout the night. Formerly with Britpop band Blur, Albarn was obviously born to perform, which is why it's baffling that he'd ever stand behind a screen while animated characters took the spotlight. However, the crowd reaction to the animated characters quickly answered that question. When the video intros for songs "On Melancholy Hill" and "El Mañana" started playing, the audience exploded with extreme joy. It might seem an unnecessary gimmick in retrospect, but many of the group's original fans were probably first drawn in by the virtual element and stuck around for the music.
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Albarn wants to know every fan.
Andrew Sherman

He also got existential on the mic while talking about touring.

“It’s a mad existence, we all know that,” he said. “It’s mad when you’re on these few buses and you’re traveling around this extraordinarily vast continent. You kind of just want to get to know everyone. That’s what we’re trying to do. We love you.”
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The Gorillaz were a beast at the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory.
Andrew Sherman
The song "Empire Ants" featured Little Dragon singing on the screen while the band accompanied the virtual singer live. Gorillaz may be known for their famous collaborations as much as they are for being animated. Earthgang and Bootie Brown from the L.A. hip-hop band Pharcyde joined on a few songs during the chunky 23-song set. The band came back out with Bootie Brown for "New Gold" and "Stylo." Then, two members of the legendary hip-hop trio De La Soul came out for "Feel Good Inc," and the band closed with their biggest hit, "Clint Eastwood" joined by British DJ and reggae singer Sweetie Irie.
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Damon Albarn of Gorillaz.
Andrew Sherman


Those 8,000 fans were treated to a feel-good night for the books.

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Albarn got creative on Saturday night.
Andrew Sherman
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Gorillaz in the wild.
Andrew Sherman
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It was a packed house, but it still felt like an intimate show on Saturday.
Andrew Sherman
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Bootie Brown joined Gorillaz onstage.
Andrew Sherman
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The legendary De La Soul was a stellar guest.
Andrew Sherman
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De La Soul rocked the crowd with Gorillaz.
Andrew Sherman
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Albarn was born to perform.
Andrew Sherman
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