Gorillaz Live Manchester

Review: Gorillaz at Manchester Arena

  • Damon Albarn's virtual four-piece Gorillaz play to a sold out Manchester Arena on their Humanz tour

It’s not often the animated four-piece take to the stage, so it goes without saying that the return of Gorillaz to the city of Manchester has been impatiently anticipated.

Following the release of their first studio album in six-years, ‘Humanz’, Damon Albarn and his virtual band pulled into the Manchester Arena for a storming 28-song set on their massive 40-date world tour. 

With the Gorillaz being a solely computer-generated band it’s hard to picture how the four members, Murdoch Niccals (bass), 2-D (vocals), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (drums), could be envisaged on stage. But with cinematics that could rival that of the IMAX, the stunning LED visuals simply stole the show. Replicating scenes from their legendary music videos, immersing the spectators into the animated world musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett dreamt up almost 20 years back.

Opening with a raw and powerful performance of the first album classic ‘M1 A1’ it gave a taste of the craziness to come. Quickly followed up by ‘Last Living Souls’ and ‘Rhinestone Eyes’ with the onstage orchestra delivering a ghostly feel to the tracks.

The performance of timeless funky tracks ’19-2000’, ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘On Melancholy Hill’ paired with the towering animations, such as the cartoon choir of kids, made you forget that there were even any performers on stage. The audience were deeply absorbed into the Gorillaz world.

But the vast array of human collaborators joining the band on stage quickly dragged you back into reality. A particular highlight being hip-hop trio De La Soul kicking off the collaborations with their part in ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ before coming back on later in the set to give a riveting performance of fan favourite ‘Feel Good Inc.’ which had all the arena manically screaming along to the crazed laughter throughout. The liveliness of American rapper Vince Staples performing the energetic track ‘Ascension’, coupled with trippy imagery and hectic flashing strobe lights, had everyone franticly bouncing around.

Peven Everett not only joined Damon on stage for funky dance single ‘Strobelite’, but also had the monumental task of standing in for the late Bobby Womack on ‘Stylo’. A challenge Everett relished and performed outstandingly under the image of Womack watching over from above.

A fearsome performance by female-rapper Little Simz on latest release ‘Garage Palace’ completely blew the audience away, showcasing her raw British talent. Her power was shown again when stepping in for Jehnny Beth on ‘We Got The Power’ just before the encore.

The five-track encore kicked off with B-Side ‘Hong Kong’, with Albarn’s melodies and oriental sounding instruments transporting listeners into the depths of the far-east. The deep basslines on classic hit ‘Kids With Guns’ and crashing drumbeats on ‘Clint Eastwood’, the tracks it seemed everyone had been waiting for all night, belting out the chorus’ right back to the band. Sandwiched in by closing tracks ‘Don’t Get Lost In Heaven’ and ‘Demon Days’.

Despite the show sometimes feeling a little stop-start, with Damon and Co switching from the varied styles of each songs. Hip-hop, to house then to funk. It’s hard to argue with the sheer diversity of their music over the past 20-years. The performance had something for everybody. Couple that with the futuristic animations bringing their characters to life and the Gorillaz threw the 21,000 onlookers into another dimension.