Gorillaz brought the party to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Oct. 17, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)
If you are looking for a show that hits all the right buttons, there’s no better party (and that’s probably the quickest descriptor that comes to mind) than a Gorillaz party. And at Merriweather Post Pavilion — to a completely packed with soles-to-the-floor crowd — the band put on a set that was, understandably, as high on visuals as earthquaking sounds.
On the cusp of the release of their eighth album, Cracker Island (coming out in February), Damon Albarn and company — joined onscreen by the cartoon versions of Gorillaz created by London artist and co-creator Jamie Hewlett: Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, Russel Hobbs, and 2-D — returned to Merriweather on Oct. 17 with a host of guests and collaborators some of whom are featured on the new LP.
As the thump-thump, thump-thump of “M1 A1” — a perfect introduction from their debut –– started pumping through the massive speakers, the “Helloooo! Is anyone there?” line repeated across the yard as the crowd got to their feet and cheered. Going from one banger to the next, Albarn took to the melodica for a moment to start off “Tomorrow Comes Today,” a slow groove that set the stage for the “19-2000” that got everyone in this eclectic crowd boppin’ along.
And it wasn’t just the older tunes that drove the crowd crazy. Several songs on the set list were new or unreleased songs, including “Cracker Island,” the lead single of the soon-to-be released album which blended seamlessly with the earlier tunes (and quickly becoming one of my favorite Gorillaz songs) with images of Murdoc and company across the screens both behind the stage and on either side of it. And the real band, complete with backing singers, two drum kits, synthesizers, guitar, bass, and brass were tight — and sounded brilliant!
As Albarn took to a piano at mid-stage to play the beginnings of “O Green World,” things quickly changed, picking up tempo and modulating between a bass- and guitar-heavy jam back to the measured piano ballad and then back again. It was a balance that echoed the entire set itself — songs that change and flow but keep that grounded groove.
One of the coolest animations played across the huge screen behind the band during “On Melancholy Hill,” outlining a strange ocean adventure as Damon finger-picked on an acoustic guitar, singing So call in the submarines / ‘Round the world we’ll go / Does anybody know, love If we’re looking out on the day / Of another dream? — the perfect blend of cinema and song.
Watch the official video for “Cracker Island” by Gorillaz ft. Thundercat on YouTube:
“This is our 52nd, 53rd gig, and that’s tough,” Albarn said, acknowledging the difficulty of being on the road for so long. “There’s something in the audience that brings me back to why I do this, and I have to say ‘thank you so much’.” As they have in other stops in their World Tour, Gorillaz brought out some fantastic guests, including Michelle Ndegwa who was utterly fantastic on “Kids With Guns,” as she had Damon Albarn holding his arms out in praise.
Openers EARTHGANG’s Olu and WowGr8 joined Gorillaz to kick up the dust with “Opium” as each took turns running from one part of the stage, keeping this capacity crowd up on their feet and moving. And that was just the beginning as Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara had everyone smiling from ear to ear with “Désolé,” while nearing the end of the set The Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown took the mic on not only “Dirty Harry” (a personal favorite), but also the surprise-heavy encore where it was a veritable who’s who from De La Soul on “Feel Good” to “Rock the House” with De La Soul and Del the Funky Homosapien joined by brass by Mike Cordone and Matt Cappy, and “Clint Eastwood” with not only Del but also Sweetie Irie who provided the remix (“refix”) of the track on the self-titled debut and helped to usher out the last of the song as those last beats washed over the crowd.
With a couple of more dates in the USA, Gorillaz heads off across the Atlantic to continue their World Tour, and it’s one not to miss!
The setlist included:
Last Living Souls
Tomorrow Comes Today
O Green World – Damon does a piano intro
On Melancholy Hill
Kids With Guns (with Michelle Ndegwa)
Opium (with EarthGang)
Désolé (with Fatoumata Diawara)
Dirty Harry (with Bootie Brown)
Dare! (with Rebecca Freckleton and Petra Luke)
New Gold (with Bootie Brown)
Feel Good (with De La Soul)
Rock The House (with De La Soul, Del the Funky Homosapien)
Clint Eastwood (with Del the Funky Homosapien and Sweetie Irie)
Here are more photos of Gorillaz performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.