Gorillaz mix and mash it up
Imagine attending a concert featuring R&B legend Bobby Womack, punk icons Mick Jones and Paul Simonon from the Clash, and hip-hop heroes De La Soul, yet not hearing one signature tune by any of those artists. Such was the case Wednesday at Agganis Arena; yet in the context of that evening’s Gorillaz performance, there wasn’t anything to complain about.
The above and more than 20 others assisted Damon Albarn in bringing to life the project that began a decade ago as animated videos of scruffy hooligans set to buoyant club-friendly musical mash-ups.
Albarn and Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett have nurtured this project into an intriguing oasis for both fans, who packed the arena, and musicians, as seen by the long and diverse list of honorary Gorillaz taking part in the ensemble’s first big world tour, as well as those who appeared on the most recent Gorillaz album, “Plastic Beach.’’
Albarn crafted a repertoire from all three Gorillaz albums and delivered the tunes with the backing of a six-piece string section, an Arabic music ensemble, multiple vocalists, and a straight-up funk-rock band. Hewlett’s riveting animation ran throughout the entire show and supplied a visual continuity as the music coursed through myriad styles and genres.
But just as Albarn did not have his guest stars dip into their musical bags, he also did not let Gorillaz lapse into audio-visual shtick. The ensemble ably moved from soulful fare such as “Empire Ants’’ (featuring the ethereal vocalist Little Dragon) and “Tomorrow Comes Today,’’ to frenetic rave-ups such as “Superfast Jellyfish,’’ which brought out De La Soul, and “Feel Good Inc.’’
Womack’s stirring turn on “Stylo’’ came early in the show, as if Albarn was challenging himself to not jut sustain but surpass that musical high. He did just that, busting down musical fences in a way that was joyous and wild without a whiff of pretension.
N.E.R.D. opened for Gorillaz and sounded refreshed as it performed a handful of new songs that furthered the troupe’s exploration into hip-hop, funk, and soul
Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.