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Concert Reviews:
Gorillaz go ape at the Fox Theatre
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- The cartoons are still around, but Gorillaz took on a decidedly human form Wednesday night (Oct. 13) and tore the roof off the Fox Theatre with an indelibly memorable, and magical, musical spectacle.

The "group" is actually the creation of Blur's Damon Albarn and British comic artist and "Tank Girl" co-creator Jamie Hewelett, fronted by four cartoon characters who, in earlier concerts, graced a large screen in front of the real band of players. But while the visual component is still strong, Gorillaz's current "Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour puts the music, and the musicians, front and center, with Albarn ringleading a collective of 40 -- including string and horn sections, a six-piece Arab-American troupe playing traditional instruments, two Naval-suited members of the Clash and featured vocalists Bobby Womack and Little Dragon, and the rap duo De La Soul -- through an hour and 45 minutes of material from Gorillaz's three albums, with the lion's share coming, not surprisingly, from this year's "Plastic Beach" set.

The general vibe of the set was funky with a strong dash of hip-hop, but the engrossing collision of sensibilities made room for a wide stylistic sweep, from the chilled-out lope of "Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach," with Snoop Dogg performing his part via the two video screens above the stage, to the circusy cascade of "Rhinestone Eyes," the airy ambience of "Broken" and "Cloud of Unknowing," the lush pop of "To Binge" and the bouncy energy of the instrumental "Glitter Freeze." Hits such as "Dirty Harry," "Feel Good Inc." and "Clint Eastwood," during which British rapper Bashy ran up one of the Fox aisles, boasted an even phatter oomph than their recorded counterparts, and the closing couplet of the buoyant "Don't Get Lost in Heaven" and a chorale "Demon Days" brought things to a rousing and emotional end.

The plethora of players onstage resulted in some interesting choices for the audience, too. Sightings of the Clash's Mick Jones and Paul Simonon are rare, after all. Albarn is hardly a ubiquitous touring presence, for that matter, and the instinctive chemistry of Gorillaz was arresting to watch. But so was the assortment of Hewlett animations and films that accompanied each song, as well as interludes that featured the cartoon Gorillaz waiting backstage for the "warm-up act" -- the real Gorillaz -- to finish.

They did, of course, but not before delivering the kind of show you never wanted to end.



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