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Arts and Entertainment

Photos/Review: Gorillaz @ Gibson Amphitheatre 10/27/10

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“This is so much fun!” A sweaty Damon Albarn beamed from the crowded stage towards the end of the outrageously triumphant Gorillaz show at the Gibson Amphitheatre Wednesday night, surrounded by a mob of musicians including founding members of the Clash, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. Given the rapturous response of the packed venue, he could have been speaking for a majority in attendance.

Concerts at the Gibson Amphitheatre already have the added surrealist glow that comes from having to run the gauntlet of Universal City Walk to get there. But the open-air consumerist orgy was a wryly-appropriate landing spot for the Gorillaz multi-sensory “Escape to the Plastic Beach” assault. Rolling out a cavalcade of all-star special guests, the nearly 2-hour show boasted appearances from De La Soul, Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, Bobby Womack, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the inimitable Lou Reed, whose foggy croon and corrosive guitar playing lit up “Some Kind of Nature.” While the show leaned heavily on their “Plastic Beach” album, Albarn was sure to pull out enough older nuggets like “Tomorrow Comes Today,” “Clint Eastwood” and “El Manana” from their first two albums to satiate the most die-hard fans. The crowd was heavy with such fans, many choosing to come out dressed as their favorite Gorillaz character (Murdoc won, with Noodle a close second).

While the endless procession of stars joining the more than a dozen musicians onstage was hard not to watch, it was just as easy to get engrossed in the glorious animation that accompanied each number. Songs like “On Melancholy Hill” and especially “Cloud of Unknowing” (featuring a beautiful vocal performance from L.A. native Bobby Womack) were made even more emphatic by their evocative video presentations of Jamie Hewlett’s distinctive artwork and stock footage collages.

It was the live element that made the night special. Albarn worked the stage like the veteran showman he is, even putting a fan to work running around the venue with a giant “White Flag” for the song of the same name. He presided over the massive production like a kid set loose in a toy store, gleefully introducing his guests and then marveling at their talents (watching him watch Womack was priceless). He treated the L.A. audience to a brand new song, the recently recorded “Doncamatic (All Played Out)” featuring emerging UK vocalist Daley, who dazzled with his strong vocals, enormous stage presence and an equally massive ‘80s Prince pompadour.

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Underneath the bombast, the concert revealed the relentless inclusiveness of the Gorillaz. Albarn leaves no sonic stone unturned, referencing a dizzying wealth of musical knowledge that in many ways picks up where the Clash left off at “Combat Rock.” He made a point to acknowledge that the Gorillaz were the first western pop band to play in the city of Damascus in the Middle Eastern country of Syria just this year before introducing the National Orchestra of Arabic Music, who’ve performed with the Gorillaz throughout their current tour.

With Pharrell Williams and his quirk-rock outfit N.E.R.D admirably opening the show with bass-heavy tunes (and a little political rhetoric) from their new album, “Nothing,” the “Escape to the Plastic Beach” tour was one of the most inspired and just plain fun concerts Los Angeles has seen this year. — Scott T. Sterling

A majority of the beauteous photographs used in this piece were, in fact, shot in San Diego at the Viejas Arena—with the exception of Lou Reed, of course.

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