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Photos: Gorillaz Kick Off Their World Tour Non-Stop Party In Chicago

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 10, 2017 4:50PM

It's always interesting to see how Damon Albarn will present iteration of Gorillaz when the band tours behind each album. In the beginning Albarn and the musician his behind a scrim with projections of the cartoon characters that ostensibly make up the hip-pop group. As time went on, Albarn grew more comfortable coming out from behind the curtain, and 2010's Plastic Beach tour saw Gorillaz functioning as a living and breathing stage organism, including members of the Clash and a rotating cast of guest singers.

Humanz, the new Gorillaz album, delves into a darker party territory than previous releases. And since the Gorillaz went on hiatus after the 2010 tour, the band's popularity and allure has only grown. Late night talk show appearances and YouTube videos offered hints of what to expect when Gorillaz kicked off their world tour at Northerly Island in Chicago last Saturday, but none of that could truly prepare you for the scope of the new show.

Gorillaz like doing things big. Their last Chicago show 7 years ago actually had to move venues in order to accommodate the tour set-up, and the group's ambition has only grown since then. This time around the biggest difference is the relative anonymity of the huge backing band, lined up onstage behind Albarn and a stream of guest vocalists.

In the band's current guise, Albarn serves as conductor and master of ceremonies more than he did on previous tours. Despite this, the show doesn't really focus on Albarn as much as it does trying to channel the apocalyptic dance vibe that permeates Humanz. Songs from that album make up the overwhelming majority of the current set list, and in a live setting the music that can at times feel oppressive when trapping your brain between two earbuds explodes into something far more groovy, if still vaguely unsettling, when translated to the big stage.

@vincestaples setting off the @gorillaz show right! #chicago #gorillaz

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The show began with a bang, as Vince Staples materialized onstage to join the band for "Ascension," and the pace only picked up from there. But, while the show was solid and entertaining and top notch, it didn't really kick into high gear for me personally until Chicago's Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, also one of the evening's opening acts, joined Gorillaz on stage to add some swirling and swooning brass to "Broken" off Plastic Beach. The colder beat-oriented thrum of the newer material gave way to something that felt more spiritual in nature, and an extended musical outro of building horn lines provided the first truly transcendent moment of the show.

The encore provided a quick trip through some of Gorillaz greatest hits, including a surprise appearance by Del The Funky Homosapien—an O.G. from Gorillaz Mark 1—to provide the vocals for the band's first big hit "Clint Eastwood." The final song of the set was "Demon Days," which was transformed from a simple, largely unadorned musical introduction into a gospel juggernaut that balanced between tender and bombastic, closing the evening with the musical equivalent of sunshine breaming through stained glass to bathe the exultant crowd in its beauty.

Full setlist for Gorillaz at Northerly Island, July 8, 2017

Ascension (with Vince Staples)
Last Living Souls
Saturnz Barz
Rhinestone Eyes
Sex Murder Party (with Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz)
She's My Collar
Busted and Blue
El Mañana
Carnival (with Anthony Hamilton)
Broken (with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
Strobelite (with Peven Everett)
Out of Body (with Zebra Katz and Imani Vonshà)
Garage Palace (with Little Simz)
We Got the Power (with Little Simz)

Stylo (with Peven Everett)
Kids With Guns
Clint Eastwood (with Del the Funky Homosapien)
Don't Get Lost in Heaven
Demon Days

Upcoming Gorillaz North American tour dates are below; full world tour dates are available here.

July 10 - Toronto, ON at Air Canada Centre
July 12 - Boston, MA at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
July 13 - Philadelphia, PA at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing
July 15 - Quebec City, QC at Quebec City Summer Festival
July 17 - Washington, DC at Merriweather Post Pavilion
August 11 to 13 - San Francisco, CA at Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
Sept. 15-17 - New York, NY at Meadows Music & Arts Festival
Sept. 18 - Detroit, MI at Fox Theatre
Sept. 20 - Minneapolis, MN at Roy Wilkins Auditorium
Sept. 22 - Kansas City MO v Sprint Center
Sept. 24 - Las Vegas, NV at Life Is Beautiful
Sept. 26 - Denver, CO at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Sept. 30 - Seattle, WA - KeyArena at Seattle Center
Oct. 5 - Los Angeles, CA at The Forum
Oct. 6 to 8 - Austin, TX at Austin City Limits
Oct. 11 - Atlanta, GA at Infinite Energy Center
Oct. 13 to 15 - Miami, FL at III Points Festival