Damon Albarn outgrew his Britpop roots years ago to emerge as one of the UK’s greatest musical auteurs, but his cartoon collaboration Gorillaz are eclectic even by his standards, combining dirty, distorted rock’n’roll, quaking dub reggae, gospel soul and wistful, spacey pop, plus intoxicating visuals, and all within one track – Every Planet We Reach Is Dead delivered an entire concert in one song.
Hydro, Glasgow ****
The Jamie Hewlett-created cartoon band members – Murdoc, 2-D, Russell and Noodle – featured as characters on the big screen at the Hydro but there was more than enough live action to engage with between bandleader Albarn, his charismatic guitarists and six soulful backing vocalists having a party among themselves – and this before hip-hop legends De La Soul showed up to holler over Superfast Jelllyfish.
From there, the guest rappers and vocalists came thick and fast, making sense of the dense material from current album Humanz as well as deputising on the old favourites. Jazz vocalist Peven Everett, stepping into the late Bobby Womack’s big soul boots, captured the cathartic melodrama of Stylo, Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz delivered Sex Murder Party as scintillating slice of transgressive club performance art, while Bootie Brown’s energetic rap cameo complemented the irresistible hookline of Dirty Harry, even if he was upstaged by the expressions and antics of the cartoon kids’ choir on the screens.
Even among all this immersive sound and vision, On Melancholy Hill and Hong Kong were outstanding moments of sweet simplicity and exquisite plaintiveness from ringmaster Albarn.