British Virtual Sensation Gorillaz Deliver a Guest Filled Spectacle to the Calm Serenity of Red Rocks – Review of the Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater (Morrison, CO)
The world’s most illustrious virtual band stopped by the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater this past week on their current tour in support of their latest album, Humanz. Emerging from their hiatus, this album marks the first release in over six years from the powerhouse ensemble, and leader Jamie Hewlett assembled a top-notch live band to accompany him on the supporting tour. Since releasing their first album in 2000, the Gorillaz have become one of the biggest groups in the entire world, easily selling out arenas across the globe and drawing crowds from all over the country whenever they decide to play in person, and their concert at Red Rocks was no exception. Tickets to this stop sold out within minutes, with dedicated fans coming from as far as South America for a chance to see the legendary show in person, and they couldn’t have picked a better place to do it.
If you have never been to Red Rocks before, I cannot recommend highly enough that you make it a point on your bucket list. Amazing concert venue aside (and it is quite amazing, there is literally no bad seat in the house and the first-come first serve nature of the seating situation ensures that everyone gets a fair shot at seeing their favorite band up close and personal), the park itself is a sight to behold. Located on the side on a mountain, the amphitheater is surrounded by enormous rocks jutting out from the ground creating a natural acoustical amplifier, which ensures great sound all the way up to the top of the seats. The park also features over ten miles of trails of varying escalation, so fans of hiking will get more than their fill of exploring the park (and if you decide to hike on a concert day, like I did, you might get lucky enough to hear that day’s band playing their short sound-check set before the show)
I arrived at the venue around four hours before doors opened (as I wanted to get in some pre-show sightseeing) and there was already a line of dedicated fans lined up at the gate for a chance to get front row seats to the upcoming show. Since the first twenty rows are usually up for grabs by the first person that gets to them, locals tend to make a day of it and bring the party with them to the line, right down to the coolers full of beer and grills roasting hot-dogs. Two of my friends chose to wait in line (and were awesome enough to hold me a good spot) while I went and killed some time around the hiking trails until it was closer to show time.
Once the doors opened, the mad dash to the seats began. Most of the people towards the front of the line chose to run down the stairs as fast as possible to get themselves planted into a seat right in the front row in lieu of getting first grabs at the very cool band merchandise that was available, and who can blame them? This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and not getting the shirt they wanted in their size was a price they were willing to pay. It did not take very long for the entire recently desolate amphitheater to look like a buzzing beehive of activity as fans rushed to find their seats before the opening act began.
As the sun set completely and rain began to fall, Vince Staples (clad in a Gorillaz hoodie) took to the stage. The 24-year old California native and frequent Gorillaz collaborator warmed up the soaking crowd with the appropriately titled Rain Come Down, and began to perform a few more songs from his latest album, Big Fish Theory. He finished his time on stage with Norf Norf, a song from his debut double album Summertime ’06 to a cheering crowd, who could hardly wait for the next part of the show to begin.
After a short (and wet) wait, the house lights began to shut off and an ominous green glow began to appear on the stage as Damon Albarn and his gang stormed onto the stage and broke into M1A1. Supported by a six-piece band along with another six-piece chorus ensemble and flanked by a giant LED light wall playing the trademark Gorillaz animations, the group tore through a stunning rendition of Last Living Souls before playing a few more songs from their self-titled Gorillaz album and their platinum selling Demon Days.
Previous iterations of the Gorillaz tour featured the musicians preforming the songs shrouded in darkness while a massive screen played the music videos in the background. This time, however, along with tailor made visuals made specifically for this tour (with different songs in rotation on the setlist at each stop), the group finally stepped into the limelight, with Damon Albarn standing front and center (and during one song, even going into the first few rows of the audience to hug a fan), with about half the songs featuring silhouette type backlighting for the rest of the band.
After playing a few songs from their latest album, Humanz, Damon brought out slew of guest performers to help him sing some of the songs. Tourmate Vince Staples came out to help sing Ascention, and Peven Everett helped perform Strobelite. After classic jam Kids With Guns, Camille Berthomier of Savages came onstage to perform We Got The Power to a roaring crowd, with the group disappearing onstage soon after as chants of “Encore” filled the arena. After a few minutes of relentless applause, Damon came back out to perform a stunning four-song encore featuring a stripped-down version of O Green World, and De La Soul came out to help perform Feel Good Inc. The last song of the night was their most famous jam, Clint Eastwood, and after a stunning 21 song set the band finally left the stage for the last time, leaving an excited crowd hungry for more.