Gorillaz Live @ Printworks — London: Thoughts and Reflections

On Friday morning I got an email saying a guest and I had the chance to attend Gorillaz’ secret show at Printworks — their first live show in 7 years.

The evening before I’d listened to Damon Albarn chat to MistaJam on BBC Radio 1, and to the subsequent official releases of Saturnz Barz (Featuring Popcaan) and Andromeda (Featuring D.R.A.M.) — the video for Saturnz Barz was then shortly released on YouTube and the album was made available to pre-order. The hype for Humanz had hit new extremes and Gorillaz were well and truly back.

The whole of the Panel team were given the chance to attend and when we arrived at Printworks that evening we were given commemorative tickets and ushered to Room 2. We took part in a couple of interviews, spoke to a few people about what we might expect and listened to rumours of who else might be appearing on-stage from Gorillaz’ extensive list of collaborators. There was no support act and the stage was set and ready from our arrival.

The Commemorative Ticket — I was given 2D, but the other band members also featured.

Damon came on to a bass heavy electronic beat (apparently, a live intro track called I Switched My Robot Off). The build was huge, so when Ascension hit and an enormous backing video of Vince Staples’ came up on screen, it’s drop-in was massive. Ascension is a huge track played live and feels even more electric than the studio version — especially toward the opening of the final chorus which enters with Damon screaming. Although Vince himself wasn’t there, across the whole night only him, D.R.A.M. and Popcaan were the only major absentees. Damon told the crowd that at the Demon Dayz festival in Margate every one of the collaborators will be performing, so there’s a lot to look forward to then, as well.

The whole album was played back to front. Sonically, to me, the album was more Plastic Beach then Demon Days or Gorillaz. You could create an argument that even the vocal performances from the collaborators were similar to their counterparts in Plastic Beach (eg. Kelala — Little Dragon; Anthony Hamilton — Bobby Womack). The reception to Let Me Out with Pusha T (!!) was so good that it was instantly performed again [I’ve uploaded a video of the opening verse below]. And the somewhat maligned Hallelujah Money took a welcome new form when given the surrounding contexts of an album.

Gorillaz & Pusha T perform Let Me Out (for the second time)

Danny Brown’s verse was a little short but waiting the entire track for him to come in at the end made his energy seem even more pronounced than it usually is. Zebra Katz wearing a full mesh mask absolutely owned the stage during Sex Murder Party. Kali Uchis and Damon performed a gorgeous duet for She’s My Collar. And both Noel Gallagher and Jean-Michel Jarre came together with Damon and Jhenny Beth to perform We Got The Power, a track which could easily fit into the end of Demon Days.

They finished with two encores. The first of which gave us Kids With Guns (a personal favourite), Feel Good Inc. with De La Soul and Clint Eastwood with Del the Funky Homosapien (who I’ve never seen perform live before, as Snoop Dogg or Kano often cover the track). During the second encore, everyone who performed on the night came back on stage to a rendition of Don’t Get Lost in Heaven.

The album sounds special performed live, and I think the themes and subject matter of the album is already apparent following the lyricism in Ascension, Hallelujah Money and We Got the Power; the album’s collaborators feed into these narratives too. The night had a fantastic energy to it and was a fantastic way to mark Gorillaz’ return. I can only be thankful that we were given the opportunity to attend.

Before attending the show, I didn’t expect as much as we got. I knew it would be special but I didn’t think it to be at a well-know venue, for many of the collaborators to be there and for the visuals to be as well prepared as they were. Esepcially, keeping in mind that this was a free show. You could see the excitement in Damon through the way he engaged with the crowd and everyone on stage. This had clearly been in planning for a long time and it showed.

Humanz is released on the 28th April and I’m (obviously) hugely eager to hear it again.