Gorillaz in LA

Tonight (well, technically last night) was my Gorillaz make-up show.

If you’ve been following closely, you’ll recall that I lasted about five songs at their Friday night Glastonbury performance.  Too crowded, too far away, poor views of the videos and stage made it not very fun….so, I moved on.  When they announced this tour, I noted the LA show and after a lot of thought decided to go see them once again under hopefully better circumstances.

Glad that I did.

It was torturous getting up there from work, an accident in Glendale cost me any time I had to eat dinner at Citywalk.  I arrived with just enough time to pay for “preferred parking”…basically, a little closer but the preferred part seems to be that they “prefer you pay twice as much”.  I walked from the lot to the Gibson and reflected back on some of the folks I’d seen there through the years…Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Petty, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan (3 times!) and hoped tonight would live up to the months I’d spent waiting.

I grabbed a quick concession plate of over-priced “chicken” strips.  Not the dinner I was hoping for, but the open act was already three songs in before I reached my seat.

N.E.R.D. was a pretty good mash of hip hop and rock.  Not a turntable in sight.  They had a solid beat with two drummers and a surprisingly powerful sound.  They played a number of songs off their upcoming release and rocked out a nice hour-long set.  One title that jumped out at me was “Hot n Fun” and I wish I knew the name of their closing song which flat out rocked and ended on a drum solo and nice vamp by the band.

I noticed that the headliner let the opening band lighting director have some fun too.  The light show was beyond what a lot of headliners will allow an opening act to use.  This was pretty much the whole rig in action.  I note that because when I see that sort of thing it tells me the headliner isn’t on a power or ego trip or worried about the opener showing them up.  (Yes, those silly sort of games do go on.)  I appreciated that Gorillaz didn’t limit the opener in that way.

After a 20 minute or so break the house lights dropped and a group of female string players filtered onto the stage.  There was an opening video featuring Murdoc and D2 (two of the cartoon “members” of the band).  Then the lush orchestral opening of Plastic Beach followed by a video cameo from Snoop Dogg of “Welcome to the Plastic Beach”.  I remembered how frustrating it had been at Glasto with the video far out of sync from the audio.  It was nice to see it as intended.

Next up came a solid version of “Last Living Souls” that lead to an absolutely  brilliant version of “19-2000” with Miho Hatori providing her original part alongside the band.  She was the first by far from the last guest who would perform tonight.  But, I remember thinking at that moment how great the band sounded.  A huge part of that was Paul Simonon on bass.  He added a muscular underpinning the whole night and was frankly just amazing to watch.  I kept visualizing his iconic picture from London Calling and realizing that along with Mick Jones there on stage that I was finally seeing a couple of rock legends who had eluded me seeing them back in the 80’s….(There’s a story there, that I’ll save for later…but it involved of all things seeing Loverboy instead of the Clash…to my eternal chagrin.)

19-2000 lead into Bobby Womack joining the band for a better-than-on-the-CD version of “Stylo”.  Next up was two of the strongest cuts off Plastic Beach.  Melancholy Hill and Rhinestone Eyes…wow, I thought…they were playing a lot of the bigger songs right up front.  I wondered how this whole show would play out.  On the next song came the next big guest…De La Soul doing “Superfast Jellyfish”…another one that was even better played live than on CD.

Reaching back to their beginning, they pulled up “Tomorrow Comes Today” and then were joined by Little Dragon for a wonderful version of “Empire Ants”.  Basically, they could do no wrong….

Then, Lou Reed joined them for “Some Kind of Nature”….

…he’s a legend, he was in  Velvet Underground…he’s F-ing LOU REED….

And, he totally sapped the momentum of the show.  His deadpan delivery is fine on the recording, but live he seemed completely lost vocally.  He also completely missed his guitar solo and sort of stood there with Paul Simonon edging over to him to maybe remind him what the thing was that he was wearing around his neck.  He finally tore off a disjointed sort of Lou Reed-ish sort of solo and wrapped the song.  (He flew from NYC for this?…seriously?)  After a quick hug with Damon, he shuffled off the stage looking like someone’s grandfather who’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong place.  He’s a legend, I have great respect for what he’s done.  But, it made me a bit sad to see him….and it totally sapped the energy from the show.

Glitter Freeze was okay, but it seemed like the band wasn’t completely recovered when they tore into “Dirty Harry”.  Nicely done and things began to slide back into gear.  Out came a young guy named Daley to do their new song, “Doncamatic”.  It was serviceable, but not anything that blew me away.  In fact, it was a good opportunity to grab a quick seat and relax my knees for a moment.

I was soon back on my feet for El Manana and the show was finally back on track after the Lou Reed misstep.  A solid version of “White Flag” gave way to a nice version of “To Binge”…another of the deeper tracks from the CD that improved live for me.  “Glitter Freeze”, then “Punk” and the main set wrapped with “Plastic Beach”.

After a few moments, the band came back out with Bobby Womack for a version of “The Cloud of Unknowing”.  Then, back came De La Soul for a terrific version of “Feel Good Inc.” that lead to “Clint Eastwood”….frankly it was just a triple punch of awesomeness….

The show wrapped with a “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and “Demon Days”….

As I wrote on my final note for the night….F-ing BRILLIANT show!

And it was….Maybe one of the better shows that I’ve seen this year.  The parade of terrific guests, the fantastic band…seeing absolute legends rocking out together was everything that I’d hoped for.  I was even able to tolerate the accident that I got stuck behind on the way home by playing Dirty Harry at full volume while I sat stopped in the fast lane of the 5 fwy.

Tired, but happy and off to bed.

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