GORILLAZ ESCAPE TO PLASTIC BEACH 2010 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
All images contained in this post were taken either by Adrienne (most ) or myself (some) during our three day descent into Gorillaz-land, which began on October 7th at the Live on Letterman performance at Sullivan Theater, then continued at Madison Square Garden on October 8, and finally in Camden, NJ on October 10. Full slide show at the end of this post.
Mick Jones, Damon Albarn and Paul Simonon, Live on Letterman 10/7/2010
So, I’ve charged myself with documenting the triple Gorillaz experience in words and images, and I finally sit here going over all the events that went on so that I can write about it. Of course, my brain is churning but my fingers aren’t coming up with anything now. How do I get all of it across in a meaningful way? Yargh! Do I blast images and let them speak for themselves? Give a blow by blow account of every single event? Hmmm.
To unfreeze my dazed brain, I decided to read through some of what has already been written so far about Gorillaz on the Plastic Beach North American tour, trying to figure out what I don’t want to write (a run down of performers on stage and songs played has been well document), as a way to figure out what I do want to write (while trying to hold back my fan geek out to a minimum for the moment to write something that relates to this blog). As I began to do this I finally found a hole in what has been written that maybe I’ll try to fill, and so I settled on focusing on the actual collaboration between Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (and the subsequent collaboration between them and everyone else involved with Gorillaz), and what it means, besides the word “collaborators” being tossed out as an adjective when mentioning the duo. Not that I have any more insight into their collaboration than anybody else, but at the heart of this blog is a burning passion for working on projects with others. So that’s it, that’s what I’m going to focus on here: the epic proportions that a collaboration can take on, and the human interactions involved through being part of a collaboration, as Gorillaz as a creative machine is the perfect example of a collaboration to the extreme.
A little side note before I get into it, I will mention the experience I had with my sister Adrienne when we attended the very intimate and insanely fun Live on Letterman Gorillaz performance is definitely something I want to share as well (go here for the Gorillaz Live on Letterman Odyssey article in which I discuss that experience). That was last Thursday, just prior to attending the second and third dates (New York City and Camden, NJ) of their twenty, full production shows taking place between now and November. I will be writing more about that too eventually, and I will also pass on some of it as it relates to Mick Jones and Paul Simonon on to my friend Tim over at The Clash Blog. I will link over to that once it is posted.
Ok, so now I’ve committed myself to this topic here. Collaborations. Time to pull out my number two pencil for an essay. Get your beverage ready because off I go . . .
At the root of a collaboration, at least I have found, is the need of at least one person to feel connected to another person, or persons. There is also the necessity for one to be prepared to influence another, and yet also be willing to be influenced, changed and challenged by the other. This dynamic of push/pull, give-and-take has always excited me. The very first collaboration I can remember ever being part of is with my uncle, an artist, who when I was very little would make a small doodle on a page and then pass the paper on to me, or my sister, or my cousin. We were only allowed to make small marks in one area at a time so no one would dominate the image, but eventually we would end up with some elaborate strange face or figure and amazed me as I would watch it unfold.
I think I have always kept that in the back of my mind when creating anything. My thought process has always been, what do I do next or where is this drawing headed? Even when working alone I often catch myself stopping to think, if I was another person, what could I possibly do that isn’t what I’d normally do to change things up? The thought of allowing something spontaneous and creative to come outside of one’s self and see where it leads still continues to fascinate me and is so very addictive.
Finally, there is also the fulfillment of a sense of connectedness to others BECAUSE of a collaboration—connectedness through creating together, where the collaboration becomes a catalyst for human interaction, and that alone is a thrill. Again, personally, part of the reason I began this blog was to continue the ability to collaborate and communicate with people all over the place. Sharing a creative experience with just one person, or many people, whatever the project may be, is a way to feel united, and I think that is so very important in enriching lives, my own included.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Mick Jones, the Gorillaz orchestra, Noodle, Russel and Simon Tong . . . representing about a mere third of the people who were on stage when this photo was taken
So yes, back to Gorillaz. With all that said and in mind, it’s no accident that one of my favorite bands out there is also an experiment with collaboration on a grand scale (I should capitalize that) GRAND scale. Besides the fact that I am completely enamored with the music and creative ball of energy that is Damon Albarn (Mali Music project, Monkey: Journey to the West, Blur the group that turned out an album called The Good The Bad and The Queen, the list goes on), and the visual art wizardry of Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz, Tank Girl), I am equally inspired and moved by the level of collaboration involved to make Gorillaz what they are. Beyond the Albarn/Hewlett pinnacle, there is also the added layer of guest artists from all over the planet who rotate in and out of the studio, and later on and off the stage while on tour. The amount of people involved, on stage and behind the scenes, from the origins of the first sparks of music being written, to the artwork taking shape, to the resulting road show . . . they have created an entire world of their own, and the creative group effort and the logistics of pulling that all together is more than enough for my brain to chew on and enjoy as I try to figure out (and revere) how they achieve all they do.
So this weekend I finally was able to take in and witness it live at the string of Gorillaz performances. After thinking about all of these things (while also dancing mad and soaking in the music, I can multitask when I really need to), I was completely dazzled to see first hand just how much of a fantastic feat they can pull. I really do think it’s worth pondering — the music, video, artwork, coordinating the countless musicians parading on and off the stage (even the logistics of getting each of them to the performances themselves), down to keeping time to the video, to themselves, keeping in tune, working together, all the while inspiring everyone, performers and audience alike, to dance and sing like complete maniacs together in the moment. What an achievement to put together such a grand fusion between art and music. It’s the spirit of collaboration that makes creative efforts like this work, and Gorillaz as a collective is truly a collaboration of the most extreme proportions. It’s a beautiful and mad dance of interactivity and working together. They threw me into a state of awe for all of the above reasons and more. I like that.
And now, I shall put my pencil down (it’s broken now anyway) and the images can finish up and speak for themselves.
All photos by Adrienne O. and Shannon S.