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LIVE REVIEW: Gorillaz Rock the House in Philadephia

Date of show: July 13, 2017 Location: Festival Pier at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA Review By: Miranda A Woody Last Thursday evening, despite a raging thunderstorm, music fans of all ages flooded Philadelphia's Festival Pier to see Gorillaz live on their first tour in (literally) years. The Humanz Tour, which has hit big cities all across the US and Canada, landed in Philly with a splash. What was supposed to be a 7:30 PM performance turned into a 9:30 PM performance due to torrential rains and lightning, but fans held fast for hours in order to see Damon Albarn and co. in the flesh once and for all. I was, of course, among the hoard of crazed fans waiting out the storm (perhaps counting myself the most crazed Gorillaz fan of them all). Hiding from the rain in my plastic poncho, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the show would go on despite the unpredictable Philadelphia weather.

When the rain slacked off and venue officials finally allowed fans to come in and get settled, Gorillaz’ high-energy opener, rapper Vince Staples, hit the ground running. Staples (who is featured on Gorillaz newest album Humanz) played his iconic tracks “745”, “Yeah Right”, “Love Can Be” (featuring a walk-on performance by Kilo Kish), “Big Fish”, and more. The crowd was roaring and ready to go by the time Gorillaz’ crew began the final soundcheck, and when Staples came back on the stage with Damon Albarn belting the lyrics to Gorillaz’ iconic new track “Ascension”, everyone and their mother lost their minds. Staples rapped amidst the chaos, spewing bar after bar of politically charged lyrics; “I’m just playin’ baby, it’s the land of the free (…) where you can live your dreams as long as you don’t look like me”. This introduction was nothing short of energizing, to say the least, and Damon Albarn and his live band (disappointingly not made up of four cartoons) continued on with a mixture of older tracks and Gorillaz’ new concept album, Humanz. A large screen behind the stage played the classic Gorillaz cartoons as the band played along, and some artists who could not be featured in the flesh to perform their Humanz tracks (such as D.R.A.M and Jehnny Beth) appeared on the screen as well, singing their parts of each song as large, black-and-white recordings. The impressive set-list featured all of the most popular Gorillaz tracks, minus “Feel Good Inc.”. I have no idea why they did not play their most famous song, but I imagine they have to be tired of it at this point. The iconic foursome did, however, play their hits “Clint Eastwood” (which featured a special, never-before performed verse by Vince Staples), “Stylo”, “Kids with Guns”, “19-2000”, “Rhinestone Eyes”, and more, along with their newest song (which is even newer than their latest album), “Sleeping Powder”. Overall, the show was so energized and entertaining that it felt complete without songs such as “Feel Good Inc.” or “Rock the House”.

As the show went on, I realized just how impeccable and impossible seeming a Gorillaz show really is. The entire tour Gorillaz are on now, The Humanz Tour, features performances from nearly every artist on their later and former albums. Kilo Kish, Vince Staples, Bobby Womack, Zebra Katz, and more strutted their stuff across the stage in not only their featured tracks, but in others as well. A background choir made up of four women sang harmoniously behind Albarn’s melodic vocals. A keyboardist played the electric Gorillaz sounds we all know and love. Another crew member rang a large, imitation Liberty Bell over the track “We Got the Power”. The guitarist and bassist jumped around stage all night, never faltering or running out of energy. My mind was blown; I cannot imagine how much planning has to go into each and every Gorillaz show, much less an entire Gorillaz tour.

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