The car­toon rock band ditches the screens and brings the funk to world’s long­est-run­ning fes­ti­val. By Andy Fye.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

Go­ril­laz go ape in Mon­treal, Van Mor­ri­son’s new al­bum cooks slowly in Lon­don.

Go­ril­laz Fes­ti­val D’Été De Que­bec, Que­bec City, Canada

“Do you think he’ll play that ‘woo-hoo’ song?” the dude in front asks his girl­friend, clearly re­fer­ring to Blur’s Song 2. The side-eye she shoots at him sug­gests it’s her, rather than him, who is the fan here, while the look our doubt­ful ‘bro’’ gives her back sug­gests he’s less than con­vinced about Da­mon Al­barn’s artier in­car­na­tion in Go­ril­laz. By the time M1A1’s punky open­ing blast has kicked down tonight’s door, bro’ has pretty much lost his shit, spend­ing the rest of tonight’s fes­ti­val set pick­ing his weed-slack­ened jaw off the ground and apol­o­gis­ing for ever ques­tion­ing his girl­friend. It’s a re­ac­tion shared by any other doubters, be­cause tonight Go­ril­laz sim­ply stun the 70,000 peo­ple in front of them. The Fes­ti­val D’Été De Que­bec (FEQ) pre­dates Wood­stock and is the long­est run­ning rock fes­ti­val in North Amer­ica, pos­si­bly the world. In its 50th year, the many stages dot­ted around a park in the city centre host about 1.5 million peo­ple over its 10-day run. Two years ago, you could see The Rolling Stones (and ev­ery­one else on the en­tire bill) for just $Can95, less than any sin­gle show on their 2015 tour. This year, the head­lin­ers in­clude Me­tal­lica, The Who, Muse, Ken­drick La­mar and Lady An­te­bel­lum. In short, FEQ is not muck­ing about, un­lock­ing the full po­ten­tial of ev­ery cent of its govern­ment arts fund­ing. Al­barn’s Tonight, loose-limbe how­ever, dtis rav­el­lingall about gang, Da­monh who couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from the two rock spec­ta­cles they are sand­wiched be­tween as head­lin­ers. Where Me­tal­lica can be oned­i­men­sional, Go­ril­laz pro­vide tex­ture; where Muse can dis­ap­pear over the top, Go­ril­laz show re­straint with­out los­ing any power or im­pact. The rough-hewn Jonathan Rich­man glory of M1A1 is a short-lived mo­ment of thrash and trash as As­cen­sion skit­ters across its drum’n’bass-lite clat­ter and Go­ril­laz set­tle into a Ca­siotone dub groove that sees Al­barn var­i­ously drag­ging out a key­tar, melod­ica and sit­ting at the pi­ano. For all the toy-town beats and car­toon back pro­jec­tions, how­ever, when he bel­lows, “Are we the last liv­ing souls,” while tee­ter­ing on the lip of the stage, there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly play­ful about his angst. The sweaty hair and beard, twinkly eyes, rum­pled trousers and re­fusal to re­move an ex­pen­sive-look­ing Har­ring­ton for the en­tire show sug­gests the 49-year-old Da­mon may be fully en­joy­ing his time on the road away from the fam­ily. He might want less of the lo­cal del­i­cacy pou­tine (es­sen­tially cheesy chips and gravy) and more show­ers, but there’s no doubt­ing Al­barn’s com­mit­ment to the per­for­mance as he trans­forms 19-2000 from DIY Primal Scream into a mon­ster dub, hurls him­self at the bar­ri­ers dur­ing El Mañana and then into the au­di­ence for On Melan­choly Hill, when Stro­belite’s disco funk kicks in the party is truly on its way. With vo­cal as­sis­tance from Peven Everett (on Stro­belite and Stylo), Kelela (Busted And Blue and Sub­mis­sion) and Danny Brown (Sub­mis­sion), the only dif­fi­cult note is pro­vided by Jamie Prin­ci­ple’s ‘Pussy Not War’ T-shirt, a jar­ring slo­gan that even within the con­text of Sex Mur­der Party’s fri­vol­ity, makes no more sense than his knee-socks-and-kilt en­sem­ble. Un­for­tu­nately, there was also no sign of any ‘spe­cial’ spe­cial guests tonight, as when Carly Si­mon turned up for Ticker Tape in Bos­ton just a week be­fore. Shaun Ry­der, how­ever, ap­pears on the back pro­jec­tion for Dare and raises a huge cheer, but even he comes off sec­ond best when the Stylo car ap­pears on screen for the en­core. The now-tra­di­tional end of Don’t Get Lost In Heaven meld­ing into the gospel glory of De­mon Dayz leaves the au­di­ence as­cen­dant, waft­ing home on their own green happy smoke. In creat­ing a mo­bile party mon­ster, Al­barn has also cre­ated what is very much a one-man Da­mon show, al­beit backed by any­thing up to eight peo­ple. By step­ping out from be­hind the screens of the ear­li­est Go­ril­laz gigs and fronting up to the au­di­ence, this a rock band tack­ling funk and disco like no other. Art rock for peo­ple who wouldn’t nor­mally ven­ture any­where near such a con­cept. For all his mu­si­cal mag­pie per­sonas, Da­mon Al­barn does a fine job com­part­men­tal­is­ing them, and judg­ing by the grin on bro’s face as he and his girl­friend de­part, one Da­mon at a time is more than enough for any­body.


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