CVIndependent

Mon10142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When Gorillaz—a “virtual” band featuring four animated members—released its first, self-titled album in 2001, I didn’t know what to think about it.

Now two decades into Gorillaz’s existence, many people still don’t know what to think about Gorillaz, which was founded by Damon Albarn of the Britpop band Blur, and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, creator of the graphic novel Tank Girl. While the future of Gorillaz seemed bleak after Albarn and Hewlett had serious disagreements in 2012-2013, they patched things up and got back to work on Gorillaz, which is currently on tour to support new album Humanz, the band’s first album since 2010’s Plastic Beach and a surprise release later that year, The Fall.

On Thursday night at the Forum in Los Angeles, Gorillaz played to a sold-out crowd—adults who were probably teenagers when the first album came out; teenagers who have discovered the group; and even children who were probably  turned onto Gorillaz by their parents.

The opening act, Compton native Vince Staples, performed with a plain bright-orange background. The stage was covered in theatrical smoke, which made him nearly impossible to see as he moved around onstage.

The crowd members screamed their heads off when the lights dimmed and the vocal sample of Damon Albarn screaming, “Hellllllllo! Is there anyone out there!” played. The musicians then walked onto the stage, including Albarn; multi-instrumentalist Mike Smith, who has also recorded and toured with Jamiroquai; and lead-guitarist Jeff Wootton, who has collaborated with Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Massive Attack and many others. They started off the set with “M1 A1.”

You may be asking yourself: Wait … how does this work if Gorillaz is supposedly a band with four animated characters? The answer: The live musicians perform onstage as animations play on a screen above them. After an animation flashed on the screen for the character Murdoc, the band played “Tomorrow Comes Today” from Gorillaz’s self-titled debut—which still sounds hypnotic all these years later.

The animation for the character Noodle brought on some of the heavier tracks and several live guests. This portion of the show started with “Melancholy Hill,” which was followed by ”Let Me Out” with Pusha T, “Dirty Harry” with Bootie Brown, “Ascension” with Vince Staples, and ’80s soul-club-style track “Strobelite” with Peven Everett.

Later in the show, De La Soul joined Gorillaz for “Superfast Jellyfish,” as well as “Feel Good” during the encore. At the start of the encore, Albarn mentioned that it seemed like every couple of weeks, the world was becoming a crazier place, and said he remembered when he spent time with Bruce Willis doing some fly fishing; the band then played a song called “Idaho,” which does not appear to be released on any of the group’s albums. This was followed by a performance of “Stylo,” which featured a couple of the animated Gorillaz on the video screen having a Mad Max-style car battle with Bruce Willis.

Del the Funkee Homosapien came out during the encore to thunderous applause for Gorillaz’s well-known track “Clint Eastwood” before the band toned things down to close out with the psychedelic-pop tracks “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and “Demon Days.”

The highlights of the set were “Sleeping Powder,” which showed animated character 2-D playing a keyboard in a room with a photo of Liberace on the wall, before showing 2-D in a comical appearance similar to Italian disco videos of the ’70s where individuals had tracers; “Strobelite,” which sounded like an ’80s club anthem with Peven Everett on lead vocals; and the uplifting, positive vibe of “We Got the Power,” with Jehnny Beth sharing vocal duties with Albarn before Beth went crowd-surfing deep into the crowd.

While I admit that I’ve never understood the animation portion of Gorillaz, that does not matter when the band performs live. At times, I felt like I was at a rock concert, a hip-hop concert, an EDM concert, a modern dance club and an ’80s dance club. Blending all of those sounds together cannot be easy, and Gorillaz deserves the acclaim and popularity it has.

In other words, should Gorillaz ever appear in the area again, it’s not, “You should go.” It’s, “You HAVE TO go!” Gorillaz live is an incredible music experience—and coming from someone like me who has seen and heard it all from live music acts, this is saying a lot.


Setlist

M1 A1

Last Living Souls

Saturns Barz

Tomorrow Comes Today

Rhinestone Eyes

Every Planet We Reach Is Dead

Sleeping Powder

19/2000

Melancholy Hill

Busted and Blue

El Manana

Let Me Out featuring Pusha T

Dirty Harry featuring Bootie Brown

Ascension featuring Vince Staples

Strobelite featuring Peven Everett

Andromeda featuring DRAM

Sex Murder Party featuring Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz

Out of Body featuring Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz, and Michelle

Garage Palace featuring Little Simz

Kids With Guns

Superfast Jellyfish featuring De La Soul

We Got the Power featuring Jehnny Beth

ENCORE

Idaho

Stylo featuring Peven Everett and Arthur

Feel Good featuring De La Soul

Clint Eastwood featuring Del the Funky Homosapien

Don’t Get Lost in Heaven

Demon Days

Photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Published in Reviews

Prior to heading to Los Angeles’ FYF Fest for a Saturday, Aug. 22, performance, the London-based band the Savages made its first appearance on the West Coast at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Aug. 20.

This may have been the first adobe movie-set cantina in which this band has played. The Savages brought a lattice backdrop and special LED lighting that gave the stage the feel of a dark, smoky cabaret, thanks in part to a dry-ice machine.

French-born vocalist Jehnny Beth greeted fans with, “Hello! Are you all right? You are really close,” before kicking things off with distortion-heavy “I Am Here,” off of the Savages' 2013 debut album, Silence Yourself. When you hear Beth sing, you think you may have discovered Lene Lovich and Peter Murphy’s secret musical protégé. The song brought to life some meatheads in the audience, who created an impromptu mosh pit. There was no sign of Big Dave, the bouncer, who usually puts a stop to such shenanigans—but a little moshing is always a plus at a venue that normally quells such activity.

Lucky for me, I stood next a metal pole that is perfect to hold, so you do not fly onto the stage. I was also fortunate to be with Rocio, a hard-core music fan I see at shows all over Southern California. Her training, courtesy of the Marines, helps her in these post-punk-pit situations.

Jehnny Beth at one point addressed an unprofessional photographer who was blasting her with a flash: “No flash. I do not have the complexion for that.” She then quickly introduced an appropriate song: “This is ‘Shut Up.’”

After saying the band was going to play some brand-new songs, Beth introduced one: “The Answer.” Beth showed love to the audience by making sure she made eye contact with her smoldering eyes, even though signs through out the venue reminded everyone to keep the cell phones away. Beth then introduced “Adore,” by saying, “All right: One more new song, and then we play the hits.”

The show included “No Face,” which showcases the shredding kick-ass guitar skills of Gemma Thompson.

Summoning the women in the audience by saying, “Ladies in the front! Come on, ladies. This is for the ladies,” she began “She Will.” Ayse Hassan dropped heavy bass lines that would have fit in at warehouse shows in San Pedro during the old hard-core punk days in So Cal. Fay Milton destroyed the kit with her awesome pummeling.

After the band played “Husbands,” Beth thanked the fans before saying: “This is the last song, and you know what? The Savages never do encores, but this is a long song.”

As she spoke, some tussling broke out in the crowd. After acknowledging it, she continued: “Don’t let the fuckers let you down. So are we going to play this song, or what? We are going to go home and come back, and we are going to do this again. Is that a deal?”

The audience responded with a scream. Beth said: “This song is called “Fuckers.”

Rocio allowed me to share her eloquent mini-review, as posted on social media: “Tonight’s show at Pappy and Harriet’s was almost indescribable. Never have I seen a band for the first time only knowing a couple songs that captured my attention as fully as Savages did. The atmosphere they created by the backdrop, lights and no-flash requirement created an aura of mystery so tangible, men and women alike fell in love with the all-female foursome.”

Published in Reviews