This was the most excited I’ve been about a gig for a very long time. Probably since Andrew WK in London last year. That feeling you get in your stomach when you are anxiously awaiting something you know is going to be awesome? Yeah, that.
Initially, I was wondering whether the £60 I paid for the gig (£25 for G-Club membership, £35 for two tickets) would be worth it. Those thoughts lasted all of five seconds as it dawned that I would be seeing Damon Albarn, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon (playing together for the first time since their days in The Clash) and a whole host of other musicians playing tracks from what is probably my favourite album this year.
You could tell how epic this was going to be just by looking at all the instruments on show. 2 drumkits, a big wooden piano, 4 microphones placed strategically at the back for the backup singers, 2 Korg keyboards and just enough room either side of the stage for the guitarists. The stage, just like the venue itself, was pretty packed.
The band hit the stage at 8.30pm to Orchestral Intro, the first track from Plastic Beach. The cheers were non-stop until Albarn took his place at the piano in the centre of the stage, Mick Jones to my left, Paul Simonon to my right and began playing Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach. My dream is that there’d at least be a couple of special guests like De La Soul or Kano, but as these were just dress rehearsals for their headlining slot at Coachella, it was not to be. Instead, the guest vocals, such as Snoop Dogg on aforementioned song, were played over the speakers. This took away some of the live atmosphere but the crowd would have to make do. Besides, it’s not as if they could ship over Snoop, Mos Def, Mark E. Smith, Womack et al. to, as Albarn said, “Portsmouth on a Sunday night”. Not the most exciting proposition.
Nevertheless, the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially Mick Jones who treated the crowd to what can only be described as an exotic jig during the orchestral part of White Flag. All of the musicians were wearing some sort of navy/sailor based attire in homage to the concept of Plastic Beach (except Albarn – dude has a gold tooth though, so that’s pretty piratey).
It was expected that you’d get the odd moron shouting ‘London’s Calling’ or ‘Park Life’, to which Albarn mouthed ‘fuck off’ which got quite a cheer. Tonight wasn’t about Blur or The Clash – it was all about Gorillaz.
You can view the setlist here and, as you can see, it was half Demon Days and half Plastic Beach, with the anomaly of Clint Eastwood from their debut album thrown in for good measure. It’s a shame they didn’t play more from the original – tracks like Re-Hash, 19-2000 and Rock The House are criminally underrated.
As you’d expect, singles like DARE, the previously mentioned Clint Eastwood, Feel Good Inc. and Dirty Harry got the crowd chanting along, with Feel Good Inc. proving to be particularly anthemic. However, you got the feeling that the crowd knew the words to all of the songs anyway – you don’t pay £25 to be in the G-Club if you don’t know the tunes!
Albarn mentioned that he could “hear all the mistakes from the band” but as this was the first show of the tour, the crowd seemed very forgiving. I certainly didn’t notice any mistakes that are worth mentioning here – they didn’t stop playing because of a duff note or completely restart a song, so there weren’t any catastrophic errors, despite Albarn thinking otherwise.
Overall, this was absolutely brilliant and I am so glad I paid the amount I did to see them. I don’t think they’ll ever play in a venue this small ever again after this tour. Albarn apologised again for not having the stage production that Gorillaz usually have for a show but at the end of the day, it’s all about the music. Seeing a collection of fantastic musicians playing some of the most inventive pop and hiphop of the decade on one of the smallest venues in Portsmouth is an experience I’ll never forget.