The Gig: Gorillaz ‘Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour’
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada
When: 14 October 2010
In one word: Brilliant
“W-O-M-A-C-K. You’ve seriously never heard of Bobby Womack?!” That was my stunned response as, after exiting the photographer’s stage-side pit area for the allocated 3 songs, a press photographer was asking who ‘that Bobby guy’ was. I told her his name and recommended a visit to Wikipedia. Renting Tarantino’s Jackie Brown would have been a better spitfire suggestion but my head was still spinning having two minutes earlier seen the Gorillaz from so close that I could see the dirt-free soles of Damon Albarn’s sneaks as he leapt overhead from one stage-side platform to another.
Yes, tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, soul legend Bobby Womack was just one of an all-star troupe of backing artists who were supporting UK animated virtual-band Gorillaz. Seeing Bobby perform was very cool and an absolute pleasure but seeing two members of The Clash performing live was just…well… IT’S THE CLASH! Need I say more? Mick Jones and Paul Simonon live in the flesh and sailor hats. Wow. Also joining Damon Albarn onstage for the Escape to Plastic Beach were De La Soul, Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, Bootie Brown, Rosie Wilson and Kano and Bashy – all making appearances for the songs in which they’ve collaborated with the Gorillaz for on record. Snoop Dogg was not there in person but his presence was instead made digitally via the giant video screen for opening song “19-2000”. The Fall’s Mark E. Smith was the only other collaborator not to be there in the flesh.
Damon Albarn bounced around the stage and led the front while the Gorillaz’ Murdoc, 2D, Russel and Noodle overlooked from the back on the big screen. Their was great chemistry between all the members on stage and Albarn was often stepping aside to let the other stars take their moments in the spotlight. A few of the highlights included “Broken” which was backed by Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, while Kano and Bashy had the whole crowd rocking to “White Flag” as a giant flag circulated in the crowd around the floor seats, then later Mick Jones and Paul Simonon came to the fore for the instrumental “Glitter Freeze” while backed by the synth beats of the supporting live band. “Dare” and “Feel Good” were predictable two of the most bouncing songs of the night.
The best moment of the evening was the roar of stomping and cheering fans that reverberated around the ACC during the break before the encore, and as many fans raised their lighters Bobby Womack emerged on stage with the rest of the band and sung “Cloud of Unknowing” against the backdrop of a war-themed video. Bobby’s voice was rich with such soul that I felt choked by the emotion of it all. An absolute legend.
As a rule I am not a fan of seated concerts but tonight inside the ACC was the ultimate exception. This was not a boring sit-down occasion. After being up close with my camera for the opening songs, I’d made my way to a seat in the section 100 area where I joined part of the packed-out crowd. I regularly looked around the arena and everywhere I looked I saw faces captivated by the show being put on. While wearing the free t-shirt that I got with my copy of Plastic Beach earlier this year, I was as excited as any other Gorillaz fan inside the arena and lapped up every second of what was an exhilarating concert experience.
As I left the ACC I heard many an utterance by fans expressing their praise for the show they had just seen; “awesome” and “epic” were the buzz words of the day. Maybe this season the Leafs will be able to keep up their early form and lead to simaliar awe-inspired words being heard from fans lips as they leave the ACC. That’s one big ‘maybe’ – but only a Stanley Cup winning hockey team could out-do what the Gorillaz and friends did tonight. They owned the ACC.
Gorillaz in Toronto? Feel Good Inc. Concert of the year.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Gorillaz performing at Air Canada Centre – photos by Brian Banks