Concert Reviews Music

Concert Review: Gorillaz at the Bell Centre

Gorillaz delivered an incredibly colourful performance

One of the world’s most acclaimed virtual bands, Gorillaz, gave an exceptional show at the Bell Centre on Oct. 8 for fans of all ages. With the band having been around for more than 20 years, they had two decades worth of hits to share with Montrealers as a part of their North American 2022 tour.

Fans had to wait a bit before seeing Gorillaz hit the stage after an opening act from the Atlanta hip-hop duo EARTHGANG. Despite EARTHGANG’s music being very different from Gorillaz’s, they still brought the heat and delivered an incredibly fun set. 

They performed tracks from their 2022 album GHETTO GODS, as well as some classics from older releases and songs they have with their record label Dreamville. Sadly, the duo couldn’t perform some of their biggest hits like “Meditated” and “Sacrifices” with Dreamville, and the set fell shorter than the typical 45 minutes expected.

After their set, fans were ecstatic for the main event as people were doing the wave and cheering for a solid five minutes while waiting for Gorillaz to appear.

For a virtual band, Gorillaz sure had a lot of people on stage, with at least 12 musicians, including three drummers and four backup singers, who all came ready to play to a very warmed up crowd. The English band truly gave a spectacular performance, playing most of the songs off their 2005 cult-classic Demon Days to a crowd singing every word back. 

Lead singer Damon Albarn didn’t look like your typical 54-year-old. He was highly energetic and was really enjoying himself, even going into the crowd.  Albarn was really feeding off of the crowd’s cheers and gave an incredible show in exchange, playing multiple instruments during the set.

The band also had stunning visuals, often similar to videoclips of their animated personas that fans have come to know and love throughout the years. Each video had a different story attached to the songs and it was definitely entertaining to witness the animations and the members behind them on stage at the same time.

The band also invited a lot of different guest features to play their part. These included names such as the opening act EARTHGANG, and some lesser known rappers such as Bootie Brown, who most notably has a verse on “Dirty Harry” and their latest single “New Gold.”

Overall, Gorillaz gave a stellar performance to their loyal fans who definitely had an amazing time witnessing one of the most quintessential bands of the 2000s.

Photo by Charlie Brousseau @charliebrphotos

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

Damon Albarn’s cartoon quartet is back with an impeccable assortment of singles that come together to form their best album in over a decade.

Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2001, Gorillaz have been one of the most inventive and experimental groups in the modern pop landscape. The virtual band, created by ex-Blur frontman Damon Albarn and animator Jamie Hewlett, have spent the better part of two decades amassing an impressive discography including a long list of diverse, genre-blending collaborations. While every outing hasn’t been remarkable, Albarn’s exploration of genres has always been admirable, and extremely enjoyable, as is the case here.

With Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez, Albarn has come through with the band’s most sonically cohesive album in over a decade. Juggling a list of guests that includes Sir Elton John, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Kano and ScHoolboy Q, the album manages to never feel disjointed in the way that some past Gorillaz releases have. Having all of these different voices from different genres could have resulted in a jumbled mess, with Albarn moulding his sound to fit each different artist, but instead he’s had them all step into the world of Gorillaz.

Los Angeles rapper and TDE standout ScHoolboy Q appears on “Pac-Man” and completely steals the show with two incredible verses, laid over a constantly evolving instrumental laced with sound effects from the titular game.

The excellent “Aries” features Georgia and legendary Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook. The track showcases the Gorillaz collaborative adaptability at its best, toeing the line between being a fantastic Gorillaz song and an excellent New Order song. Albarn’s vocals float freely over Hook’s infectious bass riffs in a way that invokes Bernard Sumner’s vocal mannerisms without sounding like a complete rip-off.

Even Song Machine’s most unexpected collaborations bear incredible results. “The Pink Phantom” features Elton John and Atlanta R&B staple 6LACK and is an extremely melancholic track. Backed by a silky, smooth lead piano riff and dreamy synths, the pair join Albarn in telling tales about giving somebody their all, only to end up heartbroken in the end.

The only negative that could be levied against this album is that 9 of the 11 songs on the album (17 on the deluxe), were released as singles throughout 2020, so it feels less fresh. While some may feel this way, it shouldn’t take away from how fantastic the music actually is. Even on the longer deluxe version, there is never really a moment that stands out as a “skip.”

For what is mostly a collection of singles, these songs come together with a sense of cohesion that the band haven’t achieved in some time, even with its extremely eclectic guest list. It may not scratch the itch of Gorillaz fans looking for a more concept-driven or thematic album like 2010’s Plastic Beach, but it’s still a truly remarkable record in its own right.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: Aries (feat. Peter Hook & Georgia)



Music in the News

We will always love you

Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 11. The 48-year-old multi-award winning singer, songwriter and actress, whose vocals left an unforgettable impression on the music world, had a history of personal struggles, including addiction. Her influence on the music world was echoed throughout social media within moments of her publicist releasing the news to the Associated Press. The 54th Grammy Awards, which took place on Feb. 12, featured Jennifer Hudson singing “I Will Always Love You,” a Dolly Parton song made famous by Houston in the movie The Bodyguard. The cause of death is still unknown, but police do not suspect criminal intent.

That’s Ms. Blue Ivy Carter to you

In a time-honoured tradition beloved by new parents everywhere, Jay-Z and Beyoncé are now going through the motions to have their newborn’s name trademarked. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the couple plan on using Blue Ivy Carter’s name as a brand for a line of baby accoutrements, including everything from diaper bags to baby cosmetics. Before you go thinking this move by the power couple is ridiculous, two people had already tried to trademark some variation on the child’s name within days of the birth. The claims were both denied when the Trademark Office recognized the name as belonging to the newborn. The trademark is currently pending, but will most likely be authorized, as U.S. parents are allowed to trademark the names of their children.

Not-so-delicious Cake

Ex-Cake drummer Peter McNeal, who played with the band from 2001 to 2004, is currently facing child molestation charges. In a preliminary hearing last Friday, a Los Angeles court charged McNeal with a single felony count for oral copulation/sexual penetration of a child under the age of 10. Mike Doughty, a singer-songwriter and former bandmate, was shocked at the allegation, and asked that people refrain form judgment before hearing all the facts. “Someone accused of child molestation usually gets labelled as a monster permanently, regardless of what a jury decides,” Doughty said. “I beg everybody to remember that, even if he’s innocent, and acquitted, this could ruin so much of his life.” This is not the first time McNeal has run into trouble with the law; he was charged with the attempted molestation of a young girl back in 2009, though the status of that case seems to be “unclear” according to a Fox News report.

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