Gorillaz Tour Swings Through Minneapolis

Gorillaz Swing Through The Target Center

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

The Gorillaz put on a dizzying spectacle at the Target Center in Minneapolis last Sunday that was larger than any show that venue has ever put on before.

With expensive tour-buses stretched around the entire rear of the building, even approaching the Gorillaz and N.E.R.D. show from outside was a sight to be seen. Entering and hearing N.E.R.D. play was not as great as what I had expected, but what does one expect from N.E.R.D.? At one point he asked the audience if they were interested in reading, politics, or other social issues. The crowd cheered loudly, but they gave an even louder yell for when he asked if they liked Kool-Aid. This summed up the crowd, or it showed the lack of connection that N.E.R.D. had with them. It was a great to see an artist make an attempt to cross from hip hop to social awareness, but it certainly wasn’t an earth shattering moment of consciousness.

Gorillaz came after N.E.R.D.’s 45 minute set and took the stage at around 9 pm. This was late for a Sunday night show, but worth every minute of the long trip back to Duluth.

My wife and many people I know are more fans of the band than I had been before seeing them live. Sure I had heard their CDs, but I have always been more of a Blur fan as Damon Albarn was their lead singer. Sometimes seeing a band live changes your whole perception of a band, and this was one of those times.

The audience was mostly in their early twenties, so the old fans in their 30s like me were outnumbered. This may have something to do with Gorillaz being a “cartoon” band and previously putting on more Wizard of Oz like stage shows. This tour had the band out front, where they should have been all along.

“Welcome To The World Of Plastic Beach” opened the show with Snoop Dogg up on the big screen and pre-recorded vocals. This was after an opening segment with the cartoon band doing a little skit while locked in a dressing room.

Gorillaz had Lou Reed play with them on stage in NYC, but Minneapolis had no such luck. There were guest appearances by members of De La Soul and Bobby Womack, an 09’ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and writer of the Stones hit “It’s All Over Now”. On guitar and bass former members of The Clash, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon rounded out the core of the band, but no super-celebrities at this show. A string section, two drummers, three keyboards, and various other guests made it the largest musical presentation I had ever seen, but Albarn was always the ring leader.

Albarn leads the Gorillaz and shows that many years after his initial rivalry with oft-fighting Manchesterians Oasis, that he gets the last laugh. It appears Albarn has finally conquered America. He also told a story about how the band had played Damascus in Syria this past summer.

“We were extremely lucky to play a concert there, in a sense that we were kind of the first Western band to play a big concert there. So we’ve been touring for the whole of this tour with a collective of Arab-American musicians joining us.”

The song “Dare” was played about midway through the two hour set and was one of my personal favorites. It has a beat that is centered in Brit Pop, but takes a sort of American Hip Hop twist. Albarn has a distinctive British accent, and even though he is surrounded by about thirty musicians at any given moment, he steals the stage. That was the most fascinating part of their entire performance, that despite the huge backdrop of cartoons, many other musicians, and other video, Albarn was always the center of attention. He truly moves outside of the box and takes the idea of a rock show to heights not seen before in these parts. It was big, and it was one of those once in the lifetime types of experiences that takes days to digest mentally.

After Gorillaz headlined Glastonbury this past year one can imagine playing a crowd of 5000 at the Target Center must feel a bit like a downgrade, but Albarn remembered this area and his longtime fans.

“Always played the other (venue); other side of the road,” Albarn said, referring to First Avenue across the street where Blur played back in 2000. “So, ah, this is a treat.”

The crowd cheered and basked in the experience that should have been felt by a much larger crowd.

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