Live

LIVE: Gorillaz and NERD at the Patriot Center

by Winston "Stone" Ford

“I’m sorry it took us 10 years to get here,”  Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn exclaimed to the crowd. And I can’t really blame him. 10 years might as well be a generation in this “gotta have it now” iPod society.

But after experiencing The Gorillaz in full this week, I have to say that a tour this complex is most certainly worth a decade.

As for the main event, it was a spectacle. Not only did you have soul legend Bobby Womack, in addition to legendary rappers Mos Def and De La Soul in the audience, but there were up and comers like Bashy and Kano, the glorious Yukimi Nagano, a horn section, and even traditional Arab musicians. It was clear that no expense was spared to bring the Gorillaz experience to places which we could only dream of seeing it….like the middle of Fairfax, Virginiaperhaps?

After all that, the 10 year wait dosen’t seem so long.

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Before we get to the main event, however, we have to talk about N.E.R.D. Pharell’s side project was a perfect opening to the Plastic Beach spectacular, and although his punctuality (they started at 7:30 PM on the dot) meant that he played in front of a virtually empty full Patiroit Center, he brought it like he was playing Glastonbury–no ounce of energy was wasted to bring in a good show.

Truthfully, Pharrell does not need to do this. He’s a multimillionaire. He can live off of his production alone. But it’s clear that he prefers the grueling touring schedule because of his “love of real music.” Even though the final product sometimes comes off hokey, he’s passionate about N.E.R.D., even in front of an audience who is still trying to figure the project out.

Photo by Gravity 508 (@gravity508). Please support.

It’s always hard to tour in support of a new album, and other than crowd favorites like “Rockstar,” “Hot ‘N Fun,” and “She Wants to Move,” the set was rather dour as the amazing band tore through the new material of their latest project  Nothing. Having that said, the new material however, sounds great and from the surface, introspective then most N.E.R.D. albums. Pharrell seems to have traded trade his trademark hypeness  for emo jams.

But to the main event.

Damon Albarn is a genius, and I’m further convinced that his name should be thrown around when anyone even mentions Thom Yorke. The Gorillaz are more than an imaginary band. They are a collective thought of music, blending together UK indie rock sensibilities honed in the early 90s with electronic, hip-hop and world sounds. With each album, the project takes legendary artists into a new musical relem and introduces the world to new ones. The Gorillaz are not just a band, but quite simply, a musical powerhouse.

Realizing that there has not been a proper Gorillaz tour in The States in….let’s say ever, Damon was keen enough to throw in tracks from their debut albums. “Clint Eastwood,” and “19-2000″ were crowd pleasures, while tracks like “Tomorrow Comes Today,” was a pleasant surprise. The group also pulled from their second album, Demon Days, with songs like “Dirty Harry,” and “Feel Good, Inc.”

But the greatest part of the tour came from the guests of Plastic Beach. What could’ve turned out to be a logistical nightmare became a key element to the performance. Mos Def and Bobby Womack on Stylo. De La Soul on “Superfast Jellyfish.” UK Rappers Bashy and Kano on “White Flag.” And the wonderful Yukimi Nagano on “Empire Ants,” and “To Binge.” All brought their own flavor to Damon Albarn’s world, backed by a multiple piece band who re-created the album seamlessly.

Sure, this tour might have been a little bit too ambitious–the smallish Patriot Center was not even 3/4ths full, and high end tickets were well over $100. But it’s this same ambition that brought us one of the best bands (virtual or not) of this decade. Real talk.