Friday, November 19, 2010

Being a genius isn't enough #gorillaz

I went over to Birmingham on Wednesday night for the Gorillaz gig at the NIA. I've taken 24 hours to think about it before writing anything because it was quite overwhelming. I was never a great Blur fan, tending to come down on the Mancunian side of the Blur/Oasis argument in the 90's, but I dutifully bought the Blur greatest hits CD when it came out. I've always had a fascination for virtual studio bands so the animated Albarn-Hewlett creation was interesting, and the first album still has my favourite tracks on it (see the video below). As animation morphed into flesh, I was a bit unsure what to think, and a somewhat lacklustre performance at Glastonbury didn't help, but the chance to see the whole shooting match - with half of The Clash and all the guests - in the flesh was too good to pass up, so off to Birmingham. fourtyfivequidlighterpluspetrolsixquidforparkingand

And it was good. Technically the best gig I've ever been to. Getting lost in Birmingham and missing the first support act (Little Dragon) was a bit annoying, but in 35 years of going to rock concerts this is the first time I've ever known one start on time - 7.30 pm on the dot. Blimey. Unaccustomed punctuality was a portent of things to come. The second support band, De La Soul, were interesting. Interesting meaning that this aging white guy is not a hip hop party people (but more of them later). And then they were on. Half a symphony orchestra and 40 foot high pirate-costumed Snoop Dog launching into Plastic Beach. Nearly two hours of non-stop genius. De La Soul's lecture on the philosophy of hip hop suddenly making sense as contemporary black American beats broke like counterpoint over Albarn's rythmic complexities. Ancient Arabic world rhythms woven into synthesizer enviropop, introduced by Albarn's polemic on Middle East diplomacy and the reconciliation of the West with Islam. Venerated soul singers, drunken Mancunian feedback conjurers, cartoon children's choirs ... and Albarn conducting the whole thing, a leaping, capering loon holding an impossible coalition together. Yes folks, it's the Damon Albarn show.
And yet...
it wasn't enough. Foolishly, I had turned up expecting a rock concert. And whatever this mad extravaganza was, it wasn't a rock concert. It wasn't like watching The Stranglers in a grungy dive in Moss Side, or grooving out to Graham Parker's brass section in the Sheffield Student's Union all those years ago. Something was missing. Spontaneity. Spit. Soul? Being a genius isn't enough.

As the day job gets harder and harder, as numbers squeeze the joy out, being a genius hardly counts for anything at all. It's all about grinding out the beats, ducking and weaving. Spontaneity. Soul. Spit?

I've been watching the hashtag (as you do these days) and the best review of Tuesday's gig at the O2 was Danced all night at #gorillaz now my tootsies hurt. Kinda wish I'd written that one really.