Billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime event” — only the third or fourth of those to come down the pike this year — this multimedia extravaganza was designed to present the animated supergroup Gorillaz as something more than a two-dimensional creation. Oddly enough, it took the complete breakdown of one of those dimensions to fully demonstrate that multidimensionality.
On the opening night of the five-date stand, the electronics used to beam the cartoon characters that ostensibly make up the Gorillaz onto stage-side screens went entirely wonky, leaving majordomo Damon Albarn to tell an audience that had already endured an hour-plus delay that there’d be no graphics — just a gig that might be described as Gorillaz Unplugged.
While the wow factor was certainly upped considerably by the show’s video component — as borne out by Tuesday night’s revisitation, which spotlit a spectacular display of Jamie Hewlett’s surreal animation — the stand’s first perf proved that visuals weren’t the only draw. The pumping rhythms underpinning the lion’s share of the material — basslines that ran the gamut from deep house grooves to vintage Factory Records post-punk — provided a goodly amount of uplift. That vibe was enhanced by the joyful presence of the children of the Casey Wright Project, whose guileless song-and-dance routine gave a big boost to “Feel Good Inc.”
The full-scale presentation proved most engaging when the flesh-and-blood performers were capable of getting in sync with their animated duet partners — the ever-stylish Neneh Cherry was particularly adept at getting that groove on — as opposed to merely skulking onstage to turn in a cameo (the m.o. of Ike Turner, whose keyboard skills have deteriorated markedly). A three-sheets-to-the-wind Shaun Ryder (late of Happy Mondays and Black Grape) earned extra credit by doing his best to morph into a cartoon character himself, fashioning himself as an odd hybrid of W.C. Fields and Mister Magoo for an unsteadily undulating “DARE.”
Perf’s post-modern tone was furthered by an ingenious partnership with Motorola, which allowed aud members to interact with the stage show via handsets and come away with some exclusive audio material for the ride home.