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Concert Reviews:
"Stripped down" Gorillaz swing into The Fox
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Gorillaz may be a “virtual” band comprised of cartoon characters drawn by “Tank Girl” co-creator Jamie Hewlett. But its flesh-and-blood incarnation, led by Damon Albarn, is a force to be reckoned with -- which the group proved again on Monday night, Sept. 18, at the Fox Theatre.

The British troupe’s Humanz Tour show, supporting Gorillaz’s fifth studio album of that name, was not quite the epic spectacle of the Escape To Plastic Beach World Tour that visited the Fox in 2010. At 13 musicians plus a selection of guest vocalists, it was -- believe it or not -- more stripped-down than the 40-member collective from the last time around. And it didn’t have quite the same star power as that show’s combination of former Clash members, the late Bobby Womack and others.

But that didn’t matter a lick.

Monday’s show, weighing in at 23 songs and an hour and 40 minutes, was a soaring delight from start to finish, even when Albarn and company were pulsing through lyrically heavier pieces such as “Sleeping Powder” and “Melancholy Hill.” The mood was buoyant and uptempo, as well as cerebral as the troupe worked through intricate dynamics and urgent rhythms in a genre-blending attack that ran from the punky opener “M1 A1” to the relentless grooves of “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “Andromeda,” the electro tinge of “El Manana” and the trippy vibe of “Busted and Blue.”

The musical highlights came amidst an array of clever visuals by Hewlett -- mostly featuring the Gorillaz characters in a variety of often violent situations -- and a deftly executed lighting scheme. De La Soul joined the party for the first live performance of “Superfast Jellyfish” in seven years and to recreate its guest raps on “Feel Good Inc.” Rapper Vince Staples, who opened the night with his own 45-minute set, ripped through “Ascension,” while Peven Everett’s vocals drove “Strobelite” and an encore rendering of “Stylo,” bolstered by a car chase video featuring Bruce Willis. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz lit up an extended, double-coda version of “Sex Murder Party,” while Camille Berthomier joined Albarn for the anthemic “We Got The Power.”

And despite his drab denim attire, Albarn was a captivating master of ceremonies, playing a variety of instruments, raising the Fox roof with an intense rendition of “Kids With Guns” and then bringing the night to soaring close with “Clint Eastwood” and the soulful coupling of “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days.”

The Fox show was one of the smallest Gorillaz is playing on the Humanz Tour, and the intimacy made it that much more impactful. The cartoons may be great fun, but it’s the human side that makes Gorillaz really swing.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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