Gorillaz Demon Days Live (Virgin)

Like all concert films, it takes away a bit of your ability to pick and choose what to watch on stage, but the DVD offers an invigorating show. If you liked the album, you will love the show; for the rest of you, there is still much to offer.

 


Though not necessarily a fanatic Gorillaz fan (there is much to take up your time on their Web site), I have always been impressed by the undertaking. The band offers a veritable what’s what of music. The music trips across territory in such a jet-powered fashion so as to cross centuries. The DVD release of a live concert featuring material primarily from their second album, Demon Days, covers the band’s appearance at the Manchester Opera House, a five day stint in late 2005.

Gorillaz is the creation of Jamie Hewlett (the cartoonist who brought us Tank Girl) and Damon Albarn (lead singer/songwriter for Blur) who inhabit the characters of 2D, Noodle, Russell, and Murdoc. The idea has spawned two hugely successful albums and allows for a rich brand of music that weaves together Albarn’s varying musical interests with dozens of inspired guest musicians. However, it makes a live appearance somewhat complicated. It is rumored that the band will perform a tour in 2007–08 as holograms. For now, the solution was a brilliant stage plot by Hewlett that offered the music’s actual creators playing in silhouette in the background, a symphony full of musicians midstage, and guests up front. The effect, when fully realized, is of a comic book page with framed moving images. The DVD offers some beautiful editing, which allows for closer cropping of the staged scene, making the visual aspects of the show knit together nicely with the music. Like all concert films, it takes away a bit of your ability to pick and choose what to watch on stage, but the DVD offers an invigorating show. If you liked the album, you will love the show; for the rest of you, there is still much to offer.

Where the DVD is most effective is in allowing the viewer to hone in on the musicians, especially Albarn. Hunched over the piano and making gestures to the band, he seems content at playing the “unseen hand that guides the project.” Even in silhouette he is riveting. In one of the DVD’s most touching moments, the band pays tribute to the Cuban star Ibrahim Ferrer, an early collaborator on the beautiful “Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo),” who died in August 2005. The song, originally on the band’s debut album and performed by Albarn, is now performed to a video of Ferrer singing the lyrics.

The DVD offers the same “bring it to the party” esthete as the albums, with a gentle collision of styles and talents that makes for an enjoyable evening. The guests include a children’s choir, St. Louis’ own Ike Turner, Nenah Cherry, and the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder. Some are better choices than others, but for the most part, the guests are well chosen and the perfect accompaniment to the show.

The Gorillaz method seems to be equal parts musical enthusiasm and exploration, pushed into party mode and accentuated with a visual richness that is rare and appreciated. Not only do they create music that is eminently listenable, but they bring in guest performers who shine under their production (the recorded version of “DARE” with Ryder is a return to his brilliant ’80s persona), and they create a band that is fully formed and entertaining in their own right. The DVD just adds texture to the whole story.

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