Gorillaz drops new song and hypnotizes San Francisco crowd

At some point during the triumphant San Francisco leg of the Gorillaz World Tour on Wednesday night, Britpop icon and multifaceted maestro Damon Albarn released a 6ft long golden horn.

“This thing is special,” he said. “Everyone closes their eyes. I only blow it on special nights when I know the crowd is ready for it.

After an almighty parp that rang to the rafters of the Chase Center, the virtual and real band launched into one of their most irresistible grooves, “Stylo,” and 15,000 people danced.

Damon Albarn is many things. 90s teenage pin-up girl, indie hero, opera composer, supergroup leader, famed beef producer and founder of a world dominating virtual band. But for me it will always be my introduction to alternative music when I bought my first cassette with my own money on a rainy English street at the age of 12. This album, “Parklife”, would go on to create an entire genre and begin Blur’s tenure as one of England’s biggest and most beloved bands with a run of six UK No. 1 albums.

Outside of favorite hockey game “Song 2”, Blur never quite made its way into the mainstream in the US like its more commercial British counterpart Coldplay. But Albarn’s creation of the experimental virtual band Gorillaz in 2001 with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett broke all molds.

The ever-growing group of collaborators and guests centered around Albarn has varied from Grace Jones to Elton John to Doja Cat and former members of The Clash to Tame Impala to De La Soul over the years.

On Wednesday evening, the giant screen behind the stage revealed the virtual universe created by Hewlett, where cartoon 2-D members Murdoc, Noodle and Hobbs did their digital thing. Against this backdrop, the current band with backing vocal quintet The Humanz Choir groove like their lives depend on it.

Albarn, dressed in a white denim jacket, black t-shirt and gold chain, strutted around with a giddy smile, and it took just three songs before he lost the jacket and got lost. throw into the crowd, which poses logistical challenges for his safety and sound. Men.

The frontman has somehow not lost the punk energy that has seen him scale PA speakers and light rigs and toss his body around the stage like a rag doll since 1991.

Outside of the Golden Horn, his high jinks at Chase Center included sprinting through the crowd losing the limelight and the camera, grabbing a cheery fan’s phone and shouting into the livestream and donning a sparkly fan-gifted hat. (something that has become a tradition on the circuit).

“I always wanted to be Elton John,” Albarn said as he sat down at the piano to play a stripped-down version of “O Green World” wearing the hat and sparkly glasses.

Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs at the Chase Center on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The first half of the set neglected the hip-hop element that played such a big part in the band’s resounding success. The members, all dressed in bright pink to match Hewlett’s artistry for the upcoming album “Cracker Island” (which will feature Stevie Nicks and Bad Bunny, among others), went from punk (“White Light”) to electronica (“Rhinestone Eyes”) on one of the most beautiful songs Albarn has ever written, “On Melancholy Hill”.

The funk created by the rhythm section of lead single “19-2000” was so sexy it sent Albarn into a gyration to rival Flea’s viral pelvic contortions happening just blocks away, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers entertained a very different crowd of tech workers for Dreamforce at Oracle Park.

The band then played the world premiere of a new song influenced, for better or worse, by the Bay Area.

“It’s a new song. It’s inspired in part by one of those wonderful things that comes out of Silicon Valley,” Albarn explained with a little smirk. . It’s something we don’t have on my remote little island. Still. I saw one and it inspired me.

It’s rare for a new song to receive the kind of love that “Skinny Ape’s” debut got at the Chase Center. From a delicate dueling intro between guitarist Jeff Wootton and bassist Seye Adelekan to a catchy chorus, “Don’t feel sad for me…”

By the end, the crowd was sort of chanting in unison, “I’m a skinny little monkey monkey monkey,” much to Albarn’s delight, because he may have realized right there that he’d written another hit. .

Despite Albarn’s occasional public feuds with other musicians, from the epic and largely contrived rivalry with Oasis in the 90s to the recent target of Swiftie’s ire, the man’s disarming smile and aging charm spark a tremendous goodwill on the part of anyone in his presence. The crowd ranged from neon-clad teenagers to geriatric millennial Blur fans like myself to some misguided Dreamforce, and all were in the palms of his hands as he climbed to the top of the barriers and threw his arms in the air. both in glory and in thanks.

The set list saved the hip-hop and hits for the second half, as it turned into a joyful cavalcade of guest vocalists, with Albarn leading the whole party under the perfectly synchronized lively band.

De La Soul’s Pos led the crowd in a spoken word, a cult chant of “I’ll never let nobody tell me what to think, I’ll never let nobody tell me what to say, I’ll never let nobody tell me what to do. ..unless it’s Damon Albarn. I feel strong, I feel confident and I… feel good,” sending the crowd and band into a frenzy as Gorillaz played their biggest hit, “Feel Good Inc. “.

Michelle Ndegwa took on explosive vocals on ‘Kids With Guns’, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker appeared virtually on ‘New Gold’ and Bootie Brown joined ‘Stylo’ with the late Bobby Womack onscreen behind, ahead of a special finale with one of the singers from Oakland. own.

Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at Oyafestivalen on August 10 in Oslo, Norway.

Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at Oyafestivalen on August 10 in Oslo, Norway.

By Ole Hagen/Redferns

“The Bay Area musicians here have been instrumental for us. One I won’t name,” Albarn had teased earlier, before the reveal during the finale, “the originator, the one and only, Del the Funky Homosapien.

The Oakland rapper then took to the stage for “Rock the House” and “Clint Eastwood,” the band’s debut single he rapped about in 2001, in a rapturous conclusion to the set.

I walked out of the room under the giant Warriors screen in Thrive City Square with thousands of smiling spectators, as happy and mesmerized by the music as when I discovered the genius of Albarn decades ago.

The Gorillaz World Tour moves to two dates in Los Angeles over the weekend. Find the details on the Gorillaz website.

Comments are closed.