Gorillaz Transform Vancouver Into Cracker Island at North American Tour Kickoff: Review, Photos and Setlist

·5 min read

The post Gorillaz Transform Vancouver Into Cracker Island at North American Tour Kickoff: Review, Photos and Setlist appeared first on Consequence.

Gorillaz kicked off their North American tour on Sunday night (September 11th) to a packed Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. The immersive experience demonstrated why the virtual band is one of the most influential acts of the past two decades — and why they’re not to be missed in person (grab tickets to the tour here).

Co-creator, frontman, and primary contributor Damon Albarn was like a conductor, lovingly leading his sprawling live ensemble and exceptional backing singers. Arranged on glittering risers like an orchestra, they played underneath a big screen showing artist Jamie Hewlett’s iconic animated band members — Murdoc, Noodle, Russel, and 2D — while dancing lights bathed the room in color.

Gorillaz have been masters of experimental storytelling right from the outset, creating vast, multidimensional, multimedia universes for their eclectic music to live and breathe in. Their 2001 eponymous debut, for example, had interactive online features that allowed visitors to virtually explore Murdoc’s Winnebago (the RV has become an icon in Gorillaz mythology), while 2020’s collaborative audiovisual web project Song Machine had songs, featuring artists like Robert Smith, Slowthai, and Elton John, released episodically as music videos.

Gorillaz Tour Review
Gorillaz Tour Review

Gorillaz, photo by Jeff Vinnick/Rogers Arena

In Vancouver, “M1A1” — with its opening reprise: “Hello, is anyone there?” — was the perfect opener and immediately warmed up the crowd before Gorillaz descended into the song’s swirling punk breakdown. The audience transcended age, ranging from Gen X-ers who likely grew up on Blur to glow stick-wielding Gen Z-ers — an undeniable testament to the enduring relevance and wide appeal of the band, who performed a career-spanning set.

“19-2000” was an early favorite, its infectious electronic and funk mash-up sounding just as fresh as it did when it was released in 2001. The classic cuts stood effortlessly alongside new songs like “Cracker Island,” from Gorillaz’s forthcoming album of the same name, which also incited big cheers and even singalongs from the crowd.

The setlist was thoughtfully paced, promoting a nuanced energy that ebbed and flowed. Already being so experimental in nature gives Gorillaz much room to push their own boundaries even further during their live performances, playing with the structures and feelings of their songs. And here, they were inspired. After a high-spirited first stretch, Albarn sat at the piano for a haunting, emotional, ballad-like rendition of the “O Green World,” an industrial rock track off Demon Days. He then showcased his vocal range as he hit a falsetto on an ambient “New Genius (Brother).”

Gorillaz Tour Review
Gorillaz Tour Review

Gorillaz, photo by Jeff Vinnick/Rogers Arena

The mood shifted again on “Kids with Guns,” gradually at first, then full throttle as one of the exceptional backing vocalists took center stage and belted out the last verse, its original whisper-soft, with staggering power. She and Albarn fell to their knees, facing each other, shredding their respective instruments.

It was a seamless transition to the second half, which was mostly dedicated to collaborations. Teamwork has been a hallmark of Gorillaz’s music since inception, with friends often joining Albarn and gang on tour; past years have included Grace Jones and Vince Staples. This time, fans were treated to special guests including Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, De La Soul’s Posdnuos, and Sweetie Irie. Bootie Brown brought explosiveness to highlights “Dirty Harry” and “Stylo,” as well as “New Gold,” the recently-released single that also features Tame Impala.

Perhaps the biggest moment of all, though, was when Pos walked onstage. He asked the crowd to hold up their hands. “I need you to repeat after me,” he said. “I will never let anyone tell me what to think. I will never let anyone tell me what to say. I will never let anyone tell me who to love. Everyone, I will never let anyone tell me how to feel. I feel strong. I feel confident. And… I FEEL GOOD!” The room completely erupted for “Feel Good Inc.,” clapping their hands, singing along, and laughing in unison to the “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” verse.

Gorillaz Tour Review
Gorillaz Tour Review

Gorillaz, photo by Jeff Vinnick/Rogers Arena

Gorillaz Tour Review
Gorillaz Tour Review

Gorillaz, photo by Jeff Vinnick/Rogers Arena

It was an energy only to be rivaled by “Clint Eastwood,” Gorillaz’s debut single, which Albarn began performing in its original, deliciously moody iteration before Sweetie Irie ran out and delivered his charged-up reggae remix of the song.

Throughout the evening, Albarn’s sense of joy was palpable. He spoke graciously and playfully to the crowd. He danced. He ventured often right into the thick of the first few rows, like on “Rhinestone Eyes” where he threw his head back and opened his arms, basking in it all, before reaching down to touch the outstretched hands surrounding him. He hugged his bandmates and kissed their cheeks. It made the show feel inclusive and intimate, like it was being held in a small venue rather than a large arena.

The feeling carried all the way through to the electric-gospel closer, “Demon Days.” Albarn blew kisses to the crowd and put his hands on his heart and bowed his head. A burning sun shined over the big screen, coating the entire room with warmth.

Gorillaz Tour Review
Gorillaz Tour Review

Gorillaz, photo by Jeff Vinnick/Rogers Arena

Gorillaz next play at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington. Tickets for that show, and for the rest of the tour, are available via Ticketmaster.

Setlist:
M1 A1
Last Living Souls
Tranz
Tomorrow Comes Today
19-2000
Rhinestone Eyes
Cracker Island
O Green World
Oh Melancholy Hill
El Mañana
New Genious (Brother)
Empire Ants
Kids With Guns
Opium (with EARTHGANG)
[Interlude: Elevator Going Up]
Andromeda
Dirty Harry (with Bootie Brown)
DARE
Momentary Bliss
Plastic Beach

Encore:

New Gold (with Bootie Brown)
Stylo (with Bootie Brown)
Feel Good Inc. (with Pos)
Clint Eastwood (with Sweetie Irie)
Don’t Get Lost in Heaven
Demon Days

Gorillaz Transform Vancouver Into Cracker Island at North American Tour Kickoff: Review, Photos and Setlist
Yasmine Shemesh

Popular Posts

Subscribe to Consequence’s email digest and get the latest breaking news in music, film, and television, tour updates, access to exclusive giveaways, and more straight to your inbox.