Gorillaz at the Target Center, 10/17/10

Photos by Nick Vlcek
Gorillaz with N*E*R*D
October 17, 2010
Target Center, Minneapolis

Well, that's it. Seeing an arena show will never be quite the same after tonight's complex and ceaseless hour-and-45-minute Gorillaz show at the Target Center.

It's a hard balancing act, expanding a rock show into a stadium-sized venue; shoot for something grandiose and conceptual and things can get schticky fast, but rely too heavily on sweaty rock club antics and a band's presence can seem shrunken in the vast openness of all that empty space.

But Gorillaz pulled off their inaugural Twin Cities date with equal parts spectacle and swagger, calling on special guest stars Bobby Womack, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash, De La Soul, Chicago's Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and dozens of others to keep the momentum blazing forward while frontman and mastermind Damon Albarn played the role of rock star ringleader.

Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn
Bobby Womack
Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack
Mick Jones of the Clash
Mick Jones of the Clash

Mick Jones of the Clash
Gorillaz at the Target Center, 10/17/10

"It's been a long time since I've been here, I've always played on the other side of the road," Albarn said between songs, referring to First Avenue. "This is a treat."

Indeed, it looked like he was having a ball as he led the band through an excellent set list that comprised all three studio albums, picking up an instrument one minute and blasting the front rows of the crowd with water the next. Albarn managed to connect with the roughly 5,000 people in attendance in a way that's far more common at a place like First Ave than a cavernous room like the Target Center, a skill he first developed with his other band, Blur, and continues to hone with this more multi-faceted group.

As the set wore on I was struck by just how many recognizable hits Gorillaz have recorded over the past decade, and the string of bouncing sing-along songs like "19-2000," "Dirty Harry," and "Feel Good Inc," combined with the steady stream of animated shorts playing on a giant screen above the stage made for a mesmerizing experience, keeping the senses engaged from start to finish.

My only complaint? Though the animation (created by Albarn's partner in Gorillaz conceptualization Jamie Hewlett) is an inherent piece of the band's aesthetic and fun to watch, I was wishing they had a screen or two that displayed the action unfolding on stage, as it was hard to get a good look at the iconic musicians like Womack, Jones, and Simonon from where I was seated

Personal bias: I've been a fan since Gorillaz came out back in 2001 but had never seen them live, so my anticipation was high going into the show.
The crowd: Young and ready to party.
Overheard in the crowd: Not overheard so much as observed, but I got a kick out of the young woman dancing in front of me wearing a t-shirt that read "We Be Illin'."
Random notebook dump: Albarn, between songs, reflecting on what a rad day we must all be having... "You won the football, you came to see Gorillaz. Perfect!"
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Nick Vlcek.

Set list:

Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach
Last Living Souls
O Green World
On Melancholy Hill
Rhinestone Eyes
Superfast Jellyfish
Kids With Guns
Tomorrow Comes Today
Dirty Harry
El Manana
Glitter Freeze
White Flag
Plastic Beach

Cloud of Unknowing
Feel Good Inc.
Clint Eastwood
Don't Get Lost in Heaven
Demon Days

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