By the end of Gorillaz last phase in 2010, Plastic Beach, the digital band found itself as scattered as their real life counterparts. Now seven years later, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and an ever expanding group of collaborators bring Humanz to life.
Dispersed from their artificial island hide-away, a radioactively enlarged Russel was paraded around North Korea as their Godzilla until he starved back to normal size; Noodle took up a pearl diving apprenticeship and battled a demon crime boss back in Japan; 2-D mistakenly thought he was stranded in Mexico after washing up in a whale that devoured him; and Murdoc was imprisoned under Abbey Road by Record label EMI for violating Gorillaz' record contract - It was his agreement to record a new album that reunited them all under one roof.
Frontman Damon Albarn, reunited with Blur, and released a solo album in the intervening years. The tour in support of 2014’s Everyday Robots heavily featured Gorillaz material, such as guest spots from Hypnotic Brass Band on “Broken," De La Soul on “Feel Good Inc.” and even Del the Funky Homosapien on “Clint Eastwood” at festival sets like Bonnaroo.
At this point Albarn even publicly stated it was unlikely for more Gorillaz material to be released, but it was after one of these shows that inspiration struck for Albarn and Gorillaz co-creator and animator Jamie Hewlett and they decided to revive the project for perhaps one more run.
Though some are less enthusiastic about the newest release, the tour opener in Chicago this week proved the album was just the start of this newest era.
Though the tour debuted at the band’s Demon Dayz fest in the UK last month, and they played a special show at NYC’s Rough Trade, the tour's first official show at Chicago’s Northerly Island felt like a proper return.
Albarn was sure to note, under a full moon, that Gorillaz carried the badge of a Chicago project, as so much inspiration had been drawn from the city’s music scene, particularly the Hypnotic Brass Band and former member soul singer Bobby Womack, who passed away since the last tour and was memorialized on screen during "Stylo."
Though Chicago was not granted an opening set by Vince Staples, as the next few cities would be, they were treated to a surprise appearance to open the show when he appeared on Humanz track “Ascension.” Another highlight from the album included "Sex Muder Party" with both Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz guesting.
Classic Gorillaz songs like "El Mañana," "Broken," and "Last Living Souls" elicited the strongest response from the crowd, and sounded sharpest. Songs like "We Got The Power," with Little Simz joining to end the set, shined through as well.
The encore unleashed the full might of the ‘Rillaz, opening with Plastic Beach cut “Stylo” before a Demon Days finale “Kids With Guns,” “Clint Eastwood” (that just as shockingly as Staples at the open saw Del the Funky Homosapien trot out for his verse), “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days.”
A more diverse follow up than the focused Plastic Beach, the Humanz World Tour delivers a stirring sequel that remains unique.