The "Escape to Plastic Beach" Tour arrived at Oakland's Oracle Arena on Saturday night, bringing some new acquaintances and familiar faces to Gorillaz fans.
Gorillaz had come about as a collaboration between Damon Albarn, Blur frontman, and Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind the "Tank Girl" comics, in 1998. The well loved characters of Noodle, Murdoc, 2D, and Russell made up the Gorillaz image and took the place of traditional vocalist, bassist, guitarist, and drummer. Since its creation, the band has sold more than 20 million records and sold out many shows along the way.
While the multimedia aspects are essential to the Gorillaz, it's more than just a virtual band–there are social and world connections lying deep under all the fun and glam in the show. Until now, Damon had put the band behind the screen, but this tour was marked by the fact that everyone played to the front of the projected video animations.
The cinematic views of war and real life mingled in with the stylistic cartoons; the whole presentation was balanced–intelligent, cheeky, and innovative like we had come to expect over the years. The wide screen videos themselves, of child-like frenzy and action, displayed above large colour-lit "GORILLAZ" letters, were spectacular. Hewlett's quirky art style with its nuances never seems to fail to make an impression.
Seeing Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash, nearly side by side with Damon Albarn in between them, in their famous captain's hats and matching with Damon's white zombie maquillage made for the best Halloween ever. Mick looked happy, doing his little dances while playing rhythmic guitar along with the band's main guitarist, Jeff Wootton.
He struck a nice cross between proper English navy captain and zombie pirate. Cool doesn't even begin to cover him. Amusingly, one concertgoer told me, "The guy behind me kept screaming his name in between songs." (I may have been doing the same.) As for Paul, in a leather pilot jacket and same captain's hat, with his bass hung so low that the strap touched the back of his knees–he wasn't too different from his punk days.