I've been to the Ed Sullivan Theatre three times now, and am always a little taken back by how small it is. They say the camera adds ten pounds but it must add depth of field too. So what I was imagining to be a fairly appropriate-sized place to see Damon Albarn's Gorillaz turned out to be pretty intimate. Only 400 seats in the whole place, balcony included.
As I type this, Gorillaz are playing Madison Square Garden, which holds more like 4000 for a concert. This was a special, invite-only deal that was being shot for the Live on Letterman web series. The band had played actual Letterman just an hour. The crowd was journalists, bloggers, contest winners and corporate types who get invited due to marketing type favors and such. So despite being such a small show for a band that has sold something like 15 million records, it was also a bit sterile. No booze. No going to the bathroom. Behave.
Or so I thought. Once of the neat things about the show is…there's no stage to speak of. Which meant no real barrier between the band and the audience. After a projected animated intro (remember Jamie Hewlitt is one-third of the band), out saunters the group and right from the start of "Kids With Guns," Damon Albarn was prowling around, putting a foot up on the armrest of the front row, singing a foot from people's faces.
The show was a cavalcade of guests. To start with, half The Clash are currently official Gorillaz members, with Paul Simenon (the epitome of cool, bass slung below his crotch) and Mick Jones (Captains hat pulled down to his nose) adding class and cool to the proceedings. But we got De La Soul, Little Dragon, Bobby Womack, and a few others who I didn't recognize for the eight-song, 45-minute set which trotted out all the hits. When the band broke out glam jam "Glitter Freeze" I actually got excited that Mark E. Smith might wobble out, but no dice.
The Ed Sullivan Theatre is famous for being on the cold side and it took a few songs to warm up the crowd. We started actually having fun with "Dirty Harry" as Albarn led the crowd through it's chant-a-long chorus. They smartly put the real fans up front — there were a lot of jersey-clad Brits who'd clearly had a pint or two before the show — and the positive vibes traveled back to the more fair-weather fans.
The show ended with "Clint Eastwood" and things actually got kind of wild. Albarn pulled a few fans onto the stage and suddenly it was open season for a stage invasion. The 30-something blonde in the business suit beside me, who talked loudly with a friend through half the set, didn't hesitate to run up there. I was surprised security let it happen and if you watch the video, you can see this tan-sweatered staffmember ask people to leave the stage, even though it was clear it made for good television. Or webcasts. Same thing anymore. Gorillaz are very 2.0.
Click through to watch the whole thing.