(Photo – Jamie Sands)

Live Review – Gorillaz w/guests N.E.R.D.
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Rogers Arena , Vancouver, B.C.

One gorilla two gorilla three gorilla four. 30 more gorillas on a silly epic tour.

Not to take from the shaded inclusivity of the Gorillaz braintrust, but the final installation in the North American leg of the Escape To Plastic Beach tour at Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place) last night was a deliberate decoupage of danceable dangai doses with the spotlight democratically dealt on a dope ensemble of dozens.

Openers N.E.R.D. crewed up big for this tour, employing two drummers, a full band, plus Shay and Chad from the Neptunes backing the bright-sneakered Pharrell Williams: icon in the worlds of production (Neptunes) and street wear (Ice Cream/BBC) and frontman of No one Ever Really Dies. They managed to turn the dial on the still-sparse 7:30 pm crowd from post-dinner glut to pre-Gorillaz glee, pitching loud breaks and sizzler hooks in the faces of every man, woman, and child in the somewhat limiting structure of the stadium bowl with seated floor – and getting them to jump in spite of it.

By 8:30 the audience was thick with young kids and younger dads. By 8:45 most were wasted. And then, at 9:00, the Gorillaz happened. Welcome to the world of the plastic beach. Europe’s pan ultimate party band overpacked for this vacation. Their kit and caboodle of rappers, singers, players, and accompanying video amounted to something between a festival d’arts and an alternate universe. For those unfamiliar with the decadent tour roster accompanying frontman and co-creator Damon Alban, notable names include Mick Jones and Paul Simonon from The Clash, De La Soul, Bootie from The Pharcyde, Bobby Womack, and UK Grime MCs Kano & Bashy to name just a few. If you’re wondering if they played your song, the answer is probably yes. The rolling out of hits was unrelentingly big and the Syrian orchestra were wonderful though often overshadowed by the brass band or even the string octet. .

Frontman Damon Alban said he had a lot of people to fank for this tour, and he started, I fink appropriately, with Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl), the other co-creator of the (virtual) band. Hewlett conceptualized the video component of the stage show and it’s crazy how much better it was than Avatar: every song accompanied by a short film, each with a different aesthetic ranging from 3-D to anime to Asia Extreme, to hybrids that defy description. Forget what you know about visuals at stage shows. This was not a close-up of Bono nor was it the view from his glasses-cam. Can’t say what the highlight was… maybe the whale getting thrown at the fighter plane? But also maybe the car chase with Bruce Willis.

Finally, the incredibly charming Little Dragon from Sweden stole the show and many hearts. Imagine a more likeable Nico… born in a swimming pool of Tang.

By Nigel Mojica


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