YouTube Live: The spectacle that is Gorillaz

on June 22, 2010, 1:00pm

Doing a YouTube Live is slightly difficult for me, because in order to do this, I have to sort through concert performances, show memories, and festival outings, and pick a single act out of all of them to showcase. I’ve seen a lot of concerts, been to Bonnaroo twice (where my ’08 and ‘09’s at?!), South by Southwest once, and most recently, my first Coachella. Out of all of these, I am expected to dig up a single concert (or artist/band), and highlight their live appearance(s). I am, of course, going to pick the best damn concert I’ve ever seen.

Now, for a long time, I have said that out of all concerts and festival shows I’d seen, I had to say that my top three [live acts] were Radiohead, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket… not necessarily in that order, and we aren’t discussing specific concerts because I’ve seen all three at least twice. All three are absolutely jaw dropping live and if you ever have a chance to see any of the three, please, I beg of you, do so. You will have no regrets; in fact, you will email me thanking me up and down. However, I digress. No, during this edition of YouTube Live, we will not be talking about those three mind-blowing acts. I’m going to take this opportunity (and preaching post, really) to talk about the absolute best damn musically related experience I’ve ever had, period, hands down, no questions asked.

A fair amount of people listen to Gorillaz, and above that, a fair amount of people know who they are (I say “they” as if they’re a formidable band… more on that later). I first got hooked on Damon Albarn’s dark horse way back in the day; I can remember being a wee tot and seeing the Clint Eastwood music video on The Box (Channel 99…remember that?!) and this was during the time that Daft Punk’s “One More Time” video was just beginning to surface (or perhaps I was just becoming aware of it), so I was kind of enamored by the funky, unique, however menacing characters created by Jamie Hewlett in the video. I can also remember sitting around as a freshman in high school, shootin’ the breeze with friends, wondering what it would be like to see Gorillaz live. I had seen a crummy MTV video with the animated characters, and Madonna doing “Hung Up” with the crew, and thought it oddly hilarious.

Next, the Danger Mouse-produced Demon Days was released to worldwide recognition, selling over six million copies, including one to yours truly. Seriously, who doesn’t remember “Feel Good Inc.”? That was, for lack of a better way to put it, my “jam,” far too long after its initial release. Hell, the whole album was. I knew that Gorillaz very rarely made live appearances, for how could they? They were an animated band with a very electronically-centralized form of music. I remember reading articles about their one-off residency at the Apollo in Harlem,  and thinking how cool it would be to see the hip hop pop music performed, no, conducted, like an orchestra, in person.

Well. It didn’t take long. After the Gorillaz released their third masterful work of studio prowess, Plastic Beach, earlier this year, they were proudly added to the Coachella lineup in short order. My reaction to seeing their addition to a U.S. festival lineup can only be described as the character “!”. Now, I, a 19-year-old college student, found it mesmerizingly difficult to figure out how I would see this one-off U.S. Gorillaz apperance. I grew up in Paducah, KY and live in Nashville, TN; how would I get to the middle of the Palm Desert, in California? I won’t bore you with the details (there was no body-whoring or drug dealing involved, promise) but I made it, by golly. Throughout the weekend, the hype of Gorillaz headlining Sunday night at the festival seemed to be ever increasing. In a pie-chart scenario, the biggest slice would no doubt have been taken by the most hyped and most talked about perfomance of Coachella 2010– Gorillaz. Upon Sunday’s arrival, we made the executive decision to skip Thom Yorke’s set (‘Atoms for Peace will most likely be around for a while…. seeing Gorillaz is a once in a lifetime opportunity!’) in favor of obtaining good spots for the “main event.” We were at the barrier. Front row. Even Paris Hilton found this concert a must-see, reportedly chasing after Albarn post-show.

In reflecting on the concert itself, I can only describe it as the most awesome (it was indeed, awe-inspiring), breath-taking, heart-stopping concert-movie-theatrical performance I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. And seriously, each one of the aforementioned elements proved true. They had two drummers with massive drum kits, an entire orchestra section, a choral section, not to mention Paul Simonin and Mick Jones from The Clash on bass and guitar, respectively. Damon Albarn served as thriving curator of the production. Let’s not forget humble behind-the-scenes artistic devotee Jamie Hewlett turning literally all of Coachella into a dancing movie theatre with the 40 by 20 foot LED (LCD?) curtain screen behind, projecting images of the Plastic Beach, Snoop Dogg during track one of the album’s namesake, and countless other momentous pieces of Hewlett’s artwork and music videos.

Between Snoop’s guise projected in large-scale form, Bobby Womack guesting on “Stylo”, and “Cloud of Unknowing”, and getting to see earth-shattering hits like “Last Living Souls”, and “Kids With Guns”, I have never been left with such an incredible sense of jaw-dropped arrogance and utter conviction; an incredulous appreciation, that I, Evan Bright, was privileged enough to witness this consummation of showstopping musical transportation. And Damon Albarn concurred, telling radio station 101.9 RXP,

“Amazing. A first, in America, to 1) headline such a big festival and 2) to get that kind of reaction. And to have such a great time. I mean I really enjoyed it.”

You know, ever since returning from Coachella, I just keep wanting to go back. I want to be teleported back to the Plastic Beach. I want to live there. And from this point onward, I can proudly say that I have seen the tremendous spectacle that is Gorillaz, and I can egotistically say it was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I predict Damon Albarn to be the next Briton to be knighted. Riiiiight after Gorillaz headlines Glastonbury this coming Friday.