ACL Review: Gorillaz

Damon Albarn’s cartoon supergroup transcends

On Sunday, the Gorillaz were the only band during the first weekend of ACL Fest 2017 that made me forget where I was. Not that they were the lone act to log a transcendent performance throughout the first weekend of Austin’s largest music festival.

Spoon played above their station with an unforgettable hometown throwdown on Saturday, Chance the Rapper took us to church that night, and a young British R&B bellower named Jacob Banks consumed the hearts of Sunday’s early arrivals. That night, Damon Albarn’s 19-year-old cartoon supergroup transported me to parts unknown.

Photo by Gary Miller

Same for the audience at large, which appeared hypnotized as the Blur frontman took long strides across the stage, his back hunched and Star of David dangling around his neck, unloading Demon Days’ ominous opener “Last Living Souls” and Humanz highlight “Saturnz Barz,” in which Jamaican artist Popcaan spliced into the main stage’s humongous visualizer to deliver his verse. That initial segment, including dramatic renditions of singles “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “On Melancholy Hill” came off entrancing as the 11-piece band, including a six-person choir, masterfully enchanted even humdrum material like “Busted and Blue” and “El Mañana.”

The spell broke with a parade of character-driven guest spots, anchored by Humanz Tour cast Peven Everett, Zebra Katz, Kilo Kish, and house music curio Jamie Principle, who led a wild “Sex Murder Party.” Fellow fester DRAM made a nontypical appearance on “Andromeda,” while the multi-instrumental ringmaster joined the backing band, mostly handling keyboards. By then the audience was back at ACL, drinking, dancing, snapping selfies.

The music video for Plastic Beach single “Stylo,” a car chase featuring Bruce Willis and anime musicians Murdoc Niccals, Cyborg Noodle, and 2D, signaled the arrival of a hit-fueled coda that segued into “Feel Good Inc.” and, ultimately, “Clint Eastwood.” The latter welcomed Del the Funky Homosapien himself for his iconic verses.

That last song left me with the final words of my inaugural ACL Fest weekend this year: Albarn repeating “The future is coming.” Not a bad final thought. I just didn’t expect it to be followed by a melodica solo.

That’s okay. The 49-year-old Brit is actually fairly soulful on the often misappropriated blow-organ.

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Gorillaz, ACL Fest 2017, Damon Albarn, Blur, Peven Everett, Zebra Katz, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Murdoc Niccals, Cyborg Noodle, 2D, Kilo Kish, Jamie Principle, Del Tha Funky Homosapien

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