Ahead of their slot on the Avalanche Stage at this year's Download Festival, Naomi Penn talks to WSTR frontman Sammy Clifford about the band's exciting new plansWritten by Naomi Penn on 26th May 2018
Live Review: Gorillaz
Gorillaz make their long-awaited return to Brixton Academy with an energetic live show, Letty Gardner reviews.
Six years on from their last release and live show, Gorillaz have set off on a 2017 world tour in support of their recently released fifth studio album Humanz. The tour took to Brixton Academy on Thursday 8th, to an expectant and buzzing crowd. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the live show: whether it would rely heavily on visuals and effects, or whether it would simply be the band, and whether Gorillaz could supply the array of featured artists that appear over their many releases. However, the show was a balanced mix of old and new, energised yet subtle, and for the whole two and a half hours that the show was on, the dynamism never dipped.
Humanz has been described as a ‘party album’, distancing itself from Gorillaz older mash-up of art project and Britpop sound, as it moves towards big bold tracks, with a heavier hip-hop and dance focus. Because of this, the songs from Humanz really carried a lot of impact, and got the crowd going. Notably ‘Momentz’, ‘Out of Body’, ‘Saturnz Barz’ and ‘We Got The Power’ created an atmosphere of exaggerated energy and fun, with the enthusiasm of the band never being in doubt.
Frontman Damon Albarn intersected tracks by making mention of that day’s general election, dousing the crowd in bottled water, and introducing the musicians and various artists. Although having a restless energy that at times seemed almost too big for the stage, Albarn wasn’t always the centre of focus, as he allowed the featured artists and musicians to have their moment.
With many of the tracks on the new album featuring other artists, I was interested to see how many would attend the live show, and whether the band would have to rely on recordings to supply their presence. Albarn himself coyly mentioned that he didn’t know who was going to show up or not- but a lot did. Vince Staples, Jehnny Beth, Popcaan, Shaun Ryder, Kali Uchis, and many more all joined the party on stage, making the set feel even more like that; a large collaboration of musicians all in one place for the fun of it.
‘Garage Palace’ and ‘Sleeping Powder’ were very contrasting new songs, not on the Humanz album, with the former being a high-energy track featuring Lil Simz, with a similar vibe to ‘Out of Body’, but about ten times faster, and the latter being a sing-along piano tune that harkened back to Demon Days, which Albarn played alongside a cartoon version of himself.
There was a noticeable sense of happiness when the crowd were presented with the old cartoons, the Demon Days characters, as if we were being reunited with old friends. The same can be said of listening to the old songs. ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘Clint Eastwood’, and ‘DARE’ may be over twelve years old but the band played them with a vivacity that shut down any idea that these may be old and tired tracks.
“There was a noticeable sense of happiness when the crowd were presented with the old cartoons, like we were being reunited with old friends.
This was my first time at Brixton Academy, and the venue worked well for the performance, with its heavy focus on visuals and the symmetry of the stage. The sloping venue meant that even at the back you could see the full effect of the light show, and the tightness between the band and the visuals was impressive. After not knowing what to expect, the show left me and the crowd with a happy energy, evident by the buzz that continued after the band left the stage. Humanz might be an odd album to listen through, but it really works on stage. The few hours of fun, energy, and eye-candy visuals bodes well for Gorillaz return to the spotlight.