We arrived at Red Rocks around 2pm, and there was already a line forming. But we didn’t get there early to stand in line, we got there early to hike. It was my first time there, so we weren’t about to go to red rocks JUST for the concert, we had to see everything around it. Walking down toward the trail, we could hear Gorillaz sound-checking “Last Living Soul”. Damon Albarn’s voice echoing through red rocks. After hiking for a few hours, we ended up back at the parking lot to tailgate. It was colder than we had thought it would be, so we put on our beer blankets. Drinks were flowing, smoke was floating through the air, everyone in that parking lot was ready.
We met people from all over the country. A group of guys from Montana who drove “about ten hours” to see their favorite band. A friend who surprised the other with a ticket, who drove thirteen hours from Iowa. Even people from our home, Ohio! We get a lot of big acts through Ohio, and I’ve never seen that amount of out-of-towners. It just speaks to how once in a lifetime we all knew this show was going to be. THIS band in THIS venue, after almost ten years without touring.
When you walk into the venue, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Even the sign is beautiful. You walk into a pavilion area with the merch tables, bars, some food stands. All I could think is “where’s the stage?!” Then you take a left, and there it is, the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Surrounded by mountains, and a view of the Denver skyline in the distance. It’s just as remarkable as everyone had said.
It was unseasonably rainy the entire time we were in Colorado. In fact, it rained every single day we were there. We hoped the music gods would give us mercy, but no such luck. While we had avoided rain all day, it started raining JUST before the first act went on. It rained hard, and the rain was ice cold. We found the lushest tree we could to plant ourselves under. We were just happy Red Rocks is a “rain or shine” venue.
Once we had our drinks in hand, and our spot under the lush tree, it was show time. Vince Staples opened the show. I was excited for his set, because I love his albums. He is an amazing songwriter, there is no denying that. However, I was underwhelmed by his performance. I couldn’t help but notice how small he looked on such a huge stage. There was no spotlight, and the stage was filled with fog, it was hard to even locate him at times. “Is that him? Nope. That’s just an amp.” It was also offputting that he was the only person on stage. No drummer, no backups singers, not even someone controlling the prerecorded tracks playing behind him. Adding to the awkwardness, all of the Gorillaz equipment was already on stage, covered in tarps, giving the illusion that Staples was performing in a freshly painted house. Performance wise, his rapping was flawless, then he tried to sing to sing along on Kućka’s verse on “Yeah Right”, and it was tragic. Move over Biz Marquee.
But I was not there for Vince Staples, I was there for Gorillaz. Vince Staples was just a bonus. We all huddled for warmth waiting for them to come on, then all the stage lights pointed at the crowd, the universal sign that the show is about to start. We all unsuccessfully tried to soak in the warmth of the stage lights for a moment. Out walked Damon Albarn, Mike Smith, Jeff Wootton, Seye Adelekan, Gabriel Wallace, Jesse Hackett, Karl Vanden Bossche, and six backup singers.
Yes, they started their set with M1A1, a great choice. Their set was a perfect mix of old and new. Not nearly as many songs from heir self-titled album as I would’ve liked, but that’s just me.
Guest performer after guest performer came out. Vince Staples, Peven Everett, Jamie Principle, Zebra Katz, Camille Berthomier, De La Soul, all with no introductions – not that we needed them.
Their set was a little slower than I expected. I was expecting to dance the night away, but they did a surprising amount of slower songs. They ended their set with the two songs everyone hoped they would: Feel Good Inc., and Clint Eastwood. I almost wish they would have played one of them earlier in the set, because the energy was at an all-time-high when they played them. I could have used that energy boost earlier in the set when we were freezing and listening to a ten minute rendition of Busted and Blue. Not complaining, I love Busted and Blue, and all of their music actually. But I just wanted to DANCE to warm myself up!
I think Alburn was enjoying the legal recreations of Colorado. He was looking slightly more disheveled than usual. Jeans, a sweatshirt, a denim jacket, bedhead, the works. He also made a comment about his “lucky stone” that he [apparently?] carries around with him. He said tonight, he felt like he was performing inside the stone. Um, I guess that makes sense given the setting. “My stone and I are very happy to be here.” Great, Damon Alburn. We’re happy to have you here too. Now I want to learn more about this stone, that no one had ever heard of before tonight.
The show was unbelievable. Truly once in a lifetime. Even through all the wind and freezing rain, we, much like Damon’s stone, were happy to be there.