Damon Albarn is several different people all rolled into one singular being. He is the front man for brit-pop band Blur, the mastermind behind animated sensation of Gorillaz, one part of the super group The Good The Band & The Queen, and now an accomplished solo artist.
Last time Albarn was on Australian shores was for the first ever Gorillaz live tour and naturally, the English singer/songwriter was in nothing but Gorillaz music mode. Yet for his first show of his first solo tour in Melbourne, Damon Albarn was more than just the melancholic mellow man found on his debut solo album, Everyday Robots.
And it truly seemed the audience in the iconic Palais Theatre in the heart of St. Kilda did not expect what they got. Only those diehard Gorillaz fans would have picked up on the strange opening track, ‘Spitting Out The Demons’, which came as a welcomed surprise and served as an excellent introduction. The crowd was beckoned out of their theatre seats and told to “get as close as they can” to the stage. With melodica in hand, the seven pointed star behind Albarn flashed red (a hint at his obsession with Dr. Dee), and it became undeniably clear that this was not going to be a sit down Palais Theatre gig.
Getting straight down to business, ‘Lonely Press Play’ was to be the first song played from his debut album. Yet there was a funkier and much more rock n’ roll vibe to the tracks. Albarn even drenched the front row with water and traversed over the orchestra pit to get as close to the fans as possible. Those tracks played from Everyday Robots were completely reanimated and reinvented as more rock heavy, a nice contrast to the often melancholic feel of the album.
After hunching over the piano for ‘Everyday Robots’, Albarn took to the melodica and sent the roadies into over time, spilling more water and belting out old-school Gorillaz song, ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’. The Palais Theatre turned grunge rock and the old Gorillaz R n B dub vibe was replaced with a heavy grimey rock. ‘Slow Country’ followed quickly and Albarn perhaps took the crowd by surprise once again when ‘Kids With Guns’ erupted from the speakers.
Moments from Everyday Robots, like ‘Photographs’, brought the intensity levels down. They never truly lasted long, especially in song selections from another Albarn project, The Good, The Bad & The Queen.
Those avid Blur fans were well and truly not forgotten about with several songs from the British pop band’s collection being played including, ‘Out of Time’, ‘All Your Life’ and ‘End of a Century’.
The encore saw the venue erupt when Albarn brought out local Australian rapper, Remi, to belt out the song that began it all for Gorillaz, ‘Clint Eastwood’. Not one person remained in a seat for the entire duration of that song and it was met with a very appreciative applause at the end.
Damon Albarn fans would have appreciated the old hits mixed generously amongst the new, showing that Albarn still has the talent he is truly known for. He still has that musical genius and it is safe to say that he will be sticking around for a very long time.