Where: O2 Academy Brixton
At 6PM on Thursday evening a horde of fans are queuing around Brixton’s O2 Academy. All ages, colours and creeds. The reason they’re here: Gorillaz. As soon as the doors are open the venue is flooded with people for tonight’s sold out warm-up show for the inaugural Demon Dayz Festival.
There aren’t any support acts tonight so the two-hour wait for Damon Albarn and co gets a little tedious but you can feel the anticipation building as it draws closer to show time. Aside from their intimate launch show for the new album Humanz in March they haven’t played London in nearly seven years. It’s been a long time but the fan base is just as strong as ever.
When it’s time for Damon and his multi instrumentalist backing band to hit the stage they open with one of their newer tracks ‘Ascension’, accompanied by guest artist Vince Staples. It’s frenetic and evident that Gorillaz may have had some time off but are still firing all cylinders when it comes to live performances. Lighting effects are in abundance as a backlit screen displays artwork featuring the animated members of the band, drawn to life by cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, his instantly recognizable style an integral part of the bands appeal.
From newer work the set list takes a trip down memory lane with ‘Last Living Souls’ as Gorillaz give some love to their 2005 masterpiece Demon Days. The room filled with nearly five thousand voices as the crowd battles against Damon’s vocals. He breaks into a smile that stays on his face for the entirety of their twenty-seven song set list. Covering their entire discography we’re treated to all phases of the bands ever shifting sound, with a plethora of the original guest artists making their way on stage to complete the live experience. Later during the set we are even treated to a performance of ‘Dare’, featuring a performance from Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays) who is on surprisingly good form considering his lack of public appearances since the release of the Demon Days single.
The new material from Humanz is generally well received but it does seem that there is an over-reliance on the role of the guest artists within the tracks, as if Damon has become more of a producer for the band than a performer within it. It’s slightly disappointing but could also be seen as a good direction. Gorillaz have always been a collective product of varying cultures, genres and sonic styling and as such Damon’s Brit-pop influence can merely be regarded as an earlier phase in the bands history.
My only real criticism from the show was that during certain songs the live mixing felt a little bit off. With female vocals sounding especially tinny at times and the bass of percussion overwhelming the more intricate parts of certain tracks, specifically ‘Charger’ and ‘El Mañana’. However these complaints can be overlooked when considering the amount of spectacle and showmanship put into the performances.
The show ends with a hit packed encore. Led by the live debut of ‘Sleeping Powder’, an energetic anthem that was written and recorded only three days prior to this show. Functioning as a song for those who were upset by the lack of the animated bands presence within the new album he promises that a new EP called 2D will be released by the end of the year. What follows is a knockout rendition of ‘Feel Good Inc.’ with De La Soul appearing to complete the rap component and a beautifully muted version of ‘Don’t Get Lost in Heaven/ Demon Days’ to close the set. If this show is anything as well constructed as their Demon Dayz Festival in Margate then prepare for a fantastic event.