Review: Five Takeaways From the Gorillaz Tour Opening Night in Vancouver

Former Blur Creative and Collaborative Vocalist Damon Albarn Keeps Drawing and Shows No Signs of Letting Go

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Gorillaz North American Tour

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When: Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.

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Where: Rogers Arena

Tickets/info: livenation.com

Gorillaz, the virtual quartet consisting of vocalist/keyboardist 2-D, bassist Murdoc Niccals, guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Noodle and drummer Russel Hobbs, kicked off their 22-date 2022 North American tour Sunday night at Rogers Arena.

Conceived in 1998 by former Blur singer Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, the hugely successful project is a multi-platinum show unit whose latest project is a postmodern digital hit machine whose latest recordings have been released under the project name Song Machine where indie webisodes released new songs ranging from Momentary Bliss featuring British rapper Slowthai and punk rock duo Slaves to Pac-Man, released in honor of the video game’s 40th anniversary. These tracks were captured for a Song Machine album, Season One: Strange Timez in 2020.

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Always a fluid membership outside of Albarn, Gorillaz’s latest music has featured everyone from Robert Smith of The Cure to Malian singer Fatourmata Diawara and Elton John. The touring band tends to boast an equally impressive pedigree. Past tours have included members of The Clash, legendary soul singer Bobby Womack and many more.

Since hitting the road in 2022, the band have released more new songs, including Tormenta with Bad Bunny, Cracker Island with Thundercat and Greg Kurstin. This last track is also announced as the title of the next Gorillaz album, due out in February 2023. Setlists for concerts average more than 25 tracks drawn from the band’s eclectic career.

Here’s how opening night went:


Yasiin Bey and Damon Albarn of Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022.
Yasiin Bey and Damon Albarn of Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022. Photo by Scott Garfitt /Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

1 — M1A1: After a charming walk on stage to a vocal loop saying “hello,” the dozen members of this iteration of the Gorillaz kicked off one of the band’s meanest tunes. Going from no speed to overdrive, they made their way into concert mode. It was also a mission statement, because it’s a very energetic and groovy show.

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Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022.
Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022. Photo by Scott Garfitt (Photo by Scott /Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

2 — 19-2000: The shoe polish cool indeed. The quintet of backing vocalists had their ooh-ooh-oohs in swing and someone pulled a black lace bra on Albarn. His smile was as big as Murdoc’s on the giant save animation.

“You treat us like a golum,” Albarn offered – and then has to explain that he didn’t mean the “character of the Tolkien franchise.”


Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs on stage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022.
Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs on stage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022. Photo by Scott Garfitt (Photo by Scott /Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

3 — Cracker Island: It is therefore a total slaughter in concert. From Thundercat’s visit to the video to the nasty double-step beat, this one is already a singing crowd. Players seem to like him too as he smiles all around. Albarn noted that it wasn’t a choreographed unit, so the dancing bassist and guitarist were just pumped up.


Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022.
Damon Albarn and Gorillaz perform onstage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022. Photo by Scott Garfitt (Photo by Scott /Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

4 — El Manana: It’s not a ballad band or a love song band, but those slower melodic tunes proved to be the dominant part of the performance. The one who was never in place was often Albarn, who can growl and squeal like a soul man and belt like an altar boy. His frequent trips to the edges of the crowd and his rather ridiculous run over a baby in protective headphones being the ‘wise man’ proved that the former Britpop dandy is now a full-fledged Vegas storyteller.


Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs on stage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022.
Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs on stage at All Points East at Victoria Park in London on Friday August 19, 2022. Photo by Scott Garfitt (Photo by Scott /Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP

5 — Dare: A smashing tour de force for exceptional backing singers, this time from Demon Days has long been a fan favorite and received hearty cheers – or three – from the crowd. At this point – song 17 or so – this party was raging. Gorillaz can clearly keep rocking for years to come, as the creative and collaborative well that Albarn continues to draw from shows no signs of drying up.

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