Photos by Roger Cullman
One of the worst gigs I’ve even been to was 16 years ago. My first visit to the Docks coincided with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz first visit to the city.
The venue was the sole reason the show was so awful, but I kinda swore off Gorillaz after that gig. But Gorillaz would release four solid albums following their debut that made it hard to hold any kind of grudge against the funky cartoon characters.
Their 5th album, The Now Now, was released earlier this year and quickly followed on the heels of 2017’s Humanz. The band were here at the same venue 15 months ago, which might explain the reason the upper deck is cordoned off. The Now Now is also a relative muted affair when stacked up to the rest of their discography so there’s been no big “hits”. And it was Thanksgiving Monday.
Just like they did 16 years ago, they opened with “M1 A1” off their debut. Unlike the first gig, all the players and singers were the focal point last night. Their first tour had the players perform behind or under a screen (I couldn’t see because of the Docks’ infamous non-existent sight lines). A generous screen behind the stage set-up offered any evidence of the cartoon band.
For two hours, Albarn and company brought the funk to an eager crowd ready to let loose. The bass was generous and magnificent, and the crisp clear sound of the Scotiabank Arena ensured everyone’s parts were heard clearly by everyone’s ears. The set offered a healthy selection from all the albums of their career with heavier emphasis given to The Now Now and their sophomore hit, Demon Days.
Albarn was a convincing frontman, working the entire stage and hyping the crowd. He was just as comfortable relinquishing control to guests including De La Soul, who mercurially raised the party levels through set highlights “Superfast Jellyfish” and “Feel Good Inc.”. Material from The Now Now was given new life with the live funk and really held up nicely against their hits “Hollywood”, “Stylo”, “Dirty Harry” before wrapping up their set with “Plastic Beach”.
The band returned for an encore that included smash hit “Clint Eastwood” and bid adieu to Toronto with “Demon Dayz”. The opening night of their North American tour went off without a hitch and was just the perfect way to shake off some Thanksgiving dinner and start the week with an extra bit of pep.