It was not your typical Gorillaz show in more ways than one. The most obvious was that it was happening at Rough Trade, a small Brooklyn venue whose floor space is probably smaller than most of the stages the band usually play on. They stage was extended out a few feet further than normal though, to fit all their gear, and backup singers sang from the balcony, which gave things an almost gospel choir feel. It was also atypical in that they couldn't get the band's state-of-the art projection system, which showcases Jamie Hewlett's illustrations and animation (a big part of their live show), to work, so they played without it.
Nobody seemed to mind the lack of visual spectacle though, as they were seeing Damon Albarn is a room this tiny! Albarn is ever the showman, and had the crowd hyped and bouncing up and down from the first moments of the first song. This was also mainly a crowd of superfans who had stood in line since at least 2 AM in the rain and cold to get a wristband to the show. They were there to have a good time, and Gorillaz delivered.
The occasion was a last-minute record release show for the new Gorillaz album Humanz which they played front-to-back (minus "Hallelujah Money") like they did a few weeks ago in London, though here with less guests. Peven Everett brought his soulful voice for the New Jack Swing-ish "Strobelite"; De La Soul's Posdnuos was on hand for "Momentz"; Jamie Principle brought swagger and flow to "Sex Murder Party"; and Kali Uchis was on hand for "She's My Collar." The best moments, tonight at least, were the ones where Damon was front and center, vocally, like for the slinky "Andromeda", and ballad "Busted and Blue", and "We Got the Power" (Jehnny Beth's verse was played but obviously canned).
Albarn really seemed to enjoy the up-close and personal nature of the show, where he could see the faces of everyone in the room, and he gleefully doused us repeatedly with water (as he is wont to do). After the Humanz set, Gorillaz came back out for a trio of older favorites: "Last Living Souls," "Kids with Guns" and, finally, "Clint Eastwood." For the latter, Albarn asked if there was anyone in the crowd who knew -- really knew -- Del the Funky Homosapien's rap and wanted to do it with the band. Nearly half the audience's hands went up. After much deliberation, Damon made his selection and a girl was pulled up on stage who ended up mostly just dancing on stage. Again, not your typical Gorillaz show, but a lot of fun.
You can check out pictures from the Rough Trade show in the gallery above and watch video and check out the setlist below.
some photos by Dana Distortion