Last week, Atlanta’s Ameris Bank Amphitheatre was the landing spot for one of the more high-profile tours of recent memory. After years off the road, Gorillaz made a triumphant return to the Hollywood of the South for a night filled with star power, joy, and one of the most renowned live groups of our time putting on one of the greatest sets of the year.
From their beginnings as a strictly two-dimensional act to finding their live footing in 2010s Plastic Beach era, Gorillaz has encompassed a lot of things for a lot of different people. For me, they were the first band I ever loved — there are videos of me as a one-year-old dancing around like the apes that parade around in the “Clint Eastwood” music video. The sold-out crowd that assembled at the amphitheater came from all walks of life — there were the parents with their kids who found the band through their recent star-parade Song Machine Vol. 1, my generation repping the Demon Days merch, and an enthusiastic middle ground of fans who managed to nab a ticket to the highly-touted event. The band took the stage with the visual component of their act in the center — a fake television advert screened showing off 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, and Russel Hobbs — eliciting other-worldly cheers from the crowd eagerly anticipating the show. From there, Damon Albarn and co. guided listeners on a hit parade of the past twenty-five years, that, paired with a radiant light show and frequent appearances from the virtual band members made this night completely unforgettable.
On recent tours, the band has stuck to their newer output — I can recall seeing them behind 2017’s Humanz and being left in shock at how many of their “classics” were left unplayed. This tour was a bit different; the forthcoming Cracker Island doesn’t release until February of 2023, allowing most of their setlist to be a recap of their career rather than a preview of new material. Albarn was in a masterful bandleader mode, diving into the crowd on multiple occasions and, notably, taking a fan’s Danny Devito squid hat (yes, you read that right) and wearing it for the majority of the set. Every era was represented — the electro-throb of “Rhinestone Eyes” butting up against the mournful melodies of “Tomorrow Comes Today”, and the hits of “Feel Good Inc.” and “On Melancholy Hill” created massive sing-alongs in the fifteen-thousand-strong crowd. The band seemed energized to be in the South, the home of so much hip-hop that Albarn noted had inspired the Gorillaz ethos. That energy bled over into the guests that were in attendance as well — after a fiery opening set, hometown heroes EarthGang joined the band for “Opium”, and Del the Funky Homosapien made a rare appearance to deliver his verses on “19-2000” and “Clint Eastwood”. It was a thrilling night, and at two hours, it still felt incredibly short. They’re one of few bands today with the kind of longevity and pull to unite that many listeners on a random, chilly Wednesday night — the band’s tour is complete now, but with Cracker Island looming, I can’t encourage you enough to catch this show should it come around to your area.
Check out our photos below: