Watching cartoon versions of band members who are singing and playing along behind a curtain may sound like a bright concert gimmick to some, but the reality of the hourlong Gorillaz show is that such a presentation is a bad idea. The group’s creators, Brit animator Jamie Hewlett and Blur vocalist Damon Albarn, may have envisioned a clever response to the faceless pop that dominates the contemporary music landscape. But as dispensed at the soldout Palladium, (Milli) Gorillaz was as underwhelming and contrived as any lip-syncing boy band or teen starlet.
As the hip-hop and trip-hop songs from the band’s self-titled Virgin debut blasted from the venue’s sound system, attendees were afforded a split forward view: a video screen on top displayed the animated versions of the band members as well as other club-style clips, while the stage-level white curtain revealed silhouettes of the button-pushing and vocalizing humans, apparently Albarn and DJ Dan “The Automator” Nakamura.
The uninvolving cartoons and random animation followed no discernible story, and often what was seen didn’t have much to do with the song being heard, so the visual part of the production quickly became boring. As for the music, as cool as some of the pop-rap-reggae confections sounded, it often was impossible to distinguish between what was on tape and what was being performed live.
The voices of veteran Cali rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Miho Hatori of Japanese pop group Cibo Matto both could be heard — the former actually rapping and giving “What’s up, L.A.?” shout-outs from behind the white curtain, but the latter heard only on tape.
The group’s hit “Clint Eastwood” was offered twice, but by the second time, during an unearned encore, few who were left seemed to care. The house was packed solid for the first of two nights, but enthusiastic cheering was seldom heard and disappointment was clear on the faces of exiting patrons.